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State Senate plans a hearing on the blackout claims from the Aliso Canyon report

Aliso Canyon

A state Senate committee has scheduled a hearing May 10 to question energy agencies about claims that Southern California could experience blackouts this summer if the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility remains closed.

(Javier Mendoza / Associated Press)

A state Senate committee plans to question California energy agencies about a report they produced that warns of blackouts in Southern California if the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility remains closed this summer.

Members of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Commerce Committee have scheduled a May 10 hearing about the warnings of blackouts in a report released  this month by the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Independent System Operator.

The call for a hearing follows an article in the Los Angeles Times that raised doubts about the energy agencies’ conclusion that without Aliso Canyon, Southern Californians could find themselves subjected to intermittent blackouts for as many as 14 days during the summer because of a lack of natural gas supply.

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Aliso Canyon is the biggest natural gas storage facility in the state and the fourth largest in the nation.

Southern California Gas Co., which owns and operates the storage plant, contends that it needs Aliso Canyon because the natural gas pipeline system in the L.A. basin lacks the ability to receive the the amount of fuel needed for residential consumers and power plants during high demand periods.

The utility said it relies on Aliso Canyon to help meet demand when air conditioning units run hard during sultry summer days.

But consumer groups and utility critics contend that the blackout warnings are a scare tactic to ensure that Southern California Gas Co. is allowed to keep storing gas at the facility and that ratepayers will pay for upgrades to store even more fuel there.

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Detractors say the report fails to mention additional natural gas fields as well as other fuel and power options that could help keep the region’s lights on this summer.

For more energy news, follow Ivan Penn on Twitter: @ivanlpenn.

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