Will Governor Brown Respond To Jane Fowler’s Plea To Shutter Aliso Canyon?

Jane Fowler is asking Jerry Brown to shut down the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility permanently. She lives just a little over a mile away from the facility that she says has given her nosebleeds, nausea, and a host of other symptoms. She started feeling sick weeks before Southern California Gas ever admitted there was a massive well blow out at the facility. After a seven-month hiatus from her home, she returned only to find her symptoms back again.

Can Jerry Brown look Jane in the eye and tell her that regulators are reopening the facility that caused the biggest methane leak in U.S. history before they even know what caused the blowout? State oil, gas, and electric utility regulators just finished up public hearings where they got such an earful from residents near the Aliso Canyon facility that they had to cut the first of the two short. 

Aliso Canyon is just one of the subjects our new report, How Green Is Jerry Brown?, covers. The report finds Governor Brown is not so green.

Brown’s regulators’ support for Aliso is in keeping with solicitous treatment of investor-owned utilities has resulted in a glut of fossil fuel power plants that the Los Angeles Times just revealed we don’t need. Ratepayers are using less electricity, but paying billions more to pad the pockets of investor-owned utilities that have massively overbuilt capacity. Ratepayers are shouldering hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the Aliso Canyon facility used by utilities to park natural gas that they trade, including exporting it from California.

We don’t need Aliso Canyon for power reliability—we have so much cheap and plentiful natural gas delivered by pipeline that we don’t need to store it. We’re nowhere near using our power plants to full capacity in any case because we built in nearly triple what the state requires as a minimum cushion to avoid blackouts.

As Governor Jerry Brown’s regulators race to reopen Aliso Canyon without knowing what caused the biggest methane leak in U.S. history, a dozen advocacy and public interest law groups concur that Brown is falling short on environmental regulation. The comprehensive review of Governor Jerry Brown’s environmental record published by Consumer Watchdog concludes that, despite Brown’s national profile for fighting climate change, and even as he serves as a foil to Trump’s anti-environmental policies, Brown is falling down on six out of seven key environmental indicators, and his record is “Murky” at best on a scale of “Clean” to “Dirty.” 

Far from the environmentalist that Brown claims to be, Brown has expanded the burning of heat-trapping natural gas and nurtured oil drilling while stifling efforts to protect the public from harm. Under Brown, the number of active onshore oil and gas wells jumped by 23 percent since the year before he was elected Governor in a bid to produce more oil. He’s fired oil and gas regulators trying to make drilling safer, and has protected fracking, which was banned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo via executive order. He’s continued offshore drilling in state waters even as he solicited a federal waters ban in California from President Obama.

Among the report’s main conclusions: 


•Under Brown, major investor-owned utilities have nearly tripled the amount of extra generating capacity that the state requires to meet unexpected demand or emergencies. On Brown’s watch, the state’s share of electricity generated from carbon-emitting natural gas has risen to 60 percent from 53 percent in 2010. Fifteen natural gas power plants have been approved or built since Brown’s election. The Brown administration is also fighting to reopen the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility that suffered a well blowout and the biggest methane leak in US history when evidence shows it is not needed for power reliability. 

The report recommends: Reject new natural gas power plants, reverse approvals for those in development, and permanently shutter Aliso Canyon.


•Brown is backing a plan to merge California’s electric power system into a sprawling Western regional grid that would initially include PacifiCorp. A Warren Buffett affiliate, PacifiCorp operates plants in six Western states and owns more coal-fired plants than any other electric company. Brown’s position risks putting California in the crosshairs of hostile federal regulators and courts that could force the state to buy dirty coal power from companies like PacifiCorp, and derail its renewable energy requirements.

The report recommends: Scrap integration of California into a regional Western grid.


Brown asked President Obama to ban new oil leases in federal waters—while expanding drilling in existing leases in state waters. Since 2012, regulators permitted 238 offshore wells. Companies fracked offshore wells at least 19 times between 2011 and 2013, and in 2015 regulators greenlighted fracking 13 wells off of Long Beach. Kathon, an industrial biocide lethal to marine life, would have been used but the permits expired before the Coastal Commission could act. Despite a state ban on new leases, regulators are considering oil company Venoco’s application to tap new offshore acres in the California Coastal Sanctuary. Active onshore oil and gas wells now total more than 66,000, up from nearly 54,000 in 2009, with 20 percent of the state’s oil produced via fracking. Brown has ignored a commissioned report on fracking recommending that unknown and very hazardous chemicals be banned.

The report recommends: Use executive authority to ban fracking as New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did, reject any drilling in protected coastal sanctuaries, and phase out oil drilling. 

Jerry Brown can't have it both ways anymore. We can't support and nurture fossil fuels if we want to be the Golden State example to Trump. It's time to close down Aliso Canyon, put a moratorium on out of control natural gas power plant building, ban fracking, and leave as much fossil fuel as we can right where it belongs--buried in the ground.

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