Proposed Gas Hookup Moratorium for LA Draws Opposition

7 Dec 2017

State energy agencies are pressing Los Angeles County to freeze gas hookups for newly constructed homes and businesses in the face of feared “gas service interruptions” this winter. Three natural gas pipelines are out of service and the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field’s has limited capacity to inject gas into the local pipeline system.

“Los Angeles County has made it clear that it does not support the continued operation of Aliso Canyon,” wrote the heads of the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Dec. 4. They told the county it has “failed to step up on behalf of its constituents to provide an alternative that would ensure they could still heat their homes this winter.”

The letter from CPUC President Mike Picker and CEC Chair Robert Weisenmiller urged the county supervisors to “strongly consider and adopt an interim moratorium on new gas connections for gas service areas served by Aliso Canyon.”

The two further recommended that in lieu of building homes with natural gas heating, the county move to require “the use of heat pumps, geothermal, or other heating options.”

The suggestion for a gas hookup moratorium drew a swift and negative reaction from homebuilders.

“Such a moratorium would cause a devastating halt to all projects in the Los Angeles basin,” wrote Mike Balsamo, Building Industry Association of Southern California executive director.

Balsamo claimed that  California is “in the midst of the most serious housing crisis in the state’s history” with home affordability and ownership at a historic low due to a lack of housing construction and homelessness on the rise.

Asked by Current about the contention that a moratorium on gas hookups would stymie progress on housing in the Los Angeles area, Picker characterized the question as “an advocacy screed.” He refused to comment, saying he’s “not doing Breitbart.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathleen Barger, who represents the area around Aliso Canyon, could not be reached for comment on the proposed moratorium.

The suggestion for a moratorium comes as Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles are gearing up to spend money recently approved by local voters to build new housing for their growing number of homeless residents.

The call for a moratorium also comes after extensive repairs and upgrades following a well blow-out at the SoCal Gas Aliso Canyon facility in 2015 that caused a massive methane leak and forced thousands of nearby residents to evacuate.

The storage field reopened earlier this year with a smaller capacity, however an assessment of the winter energy outlook for the region by the two state agencies found that the outage of nearby pipelines earlier this fall could hamper the area’s gas supply.

—William J. Kelly

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