About 20 environmental activists staged a sit-in Sunday afternoon at the entrance to the troubled Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in the San Fernando Valley, calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to keep it closed permanently.
The Southern California Gas Co. facility has drawn national attention since Oct. 23 when one of its 115 wells began to spew massive amounts of gas into the atmosphere, forcing the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents from their homes. The well has since been capped.
The protesters began marching about 1 p.m. from a staging area up to the entrance of the gas facility in the hills above Porter Ranch. Many carried large photos of Jerry Brown, Eric Garcetti and other officials they blamed for not taking more aggressive action to address their environmental and health concerns.
Some of the demonstrators sat down on the driveway to block vehicle traffic. For about three hours they recited several chants, including “I don't know but I've been told, SoCalGas has got to go!” and “Jerry Brown, shut it all down!”
Los Angeles police officers stood nearby, but no arrests were made. A handful of security people from the gas company also kept watch on the protest, which appeared to have little effect on the facilities operations.
“I think people are going to listen,” said Mark Morris, a Granada Hills resident and a member of SoCal 350, one of the advocacy groups behind the protest. “We've got to bring attention to this, and historically this is the way to do it — people doing whatever it takes, even if it means risking arrest. It is a beautiful American tradition.”
“This facility has proven to be extremely dangerous,” said Alexandra Nagy of Food and Water Watch, another advocacy group. “The smells are still coming from this facility… Thousands of people are still displaced.”
The natural gas leak prompted 8,000 families into temporary housing because of complaints of illness, including headaches, nosebleeds and vomiting. Many have filed lawsuits against the utility.
The leak was capped in February and the gas field has remained shut down. The odorous discharge prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a moratorium on injecting gas into the storage operation until extensive testing ensures that the wells are safe.
Energy agencies and the utilities that draw from the facility have defended its continued operation, casting it as a necessary supply source to ensure reliability of electric and gas service in Southern California.
A judge has ordered the company to continue paying housing and hotel for those who remain displaced, at least through this month, pending a hearing to review results of indoor air tests conducted by the L.A. County Department of Public Health
The leak and related expenses have cost Southern California Gas $665 million, almost all of it covered by the utility’s $1 billion insurance.