Sacramento, CA – The massive influence of the oil and gas industry over the California Legislature was demonstrated once again today when the California Senate Appropriations Committee today passed SB 1486, the bill to close SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon storage facility, after they saddled it with numerous amendments gutting the bill’s efficacy.
The Aliso Canyon facility was the site of the largest blowout of natural gas in U.S. history. Discovered on October 23, 2015, the gas leak wasn’t plugged until February 18, 2016. An estimated 97,100 tons of methane and 7,300 tons of of ethane were released into the atmosphere during the disaster that caused numerous illnesses and displaced thousands from their homes.
In a classic “gut and amend” tactic used frequently by the fossil fuel industry to severely weaken many of the bills it opposes, the bill failed to include the 2027 shutdown and any language creating a moratorium on Aliso Canyon’s use as anything other than a last resort, according to climate activists.
Andrea Vega, Southern California Organizer with Food & Water Watch, immediately slammed the amendments to SB 1486, describing them as “shameful,”
“But even worse than the Senate leadership’s duplicity in gutting this bill is Governor Newsom’s complete failure to speak out on behalf of closing Aliso Canyon,” she stated. “Sempra is a powerful lobby group and we knew going into this fight that we faced a corporate interest with money to burn and no concern for the people sacrificed to its bottom line.”
“We need Governor Newsom to take up this fight for the sake of justice and his climate agenda — we can’t have either as long as Aliso Canyon is still operating. SB 1486 is no longer the bold legislation Senator Stern championed, and Newsom is the only hope for the courageous climate action we need,” she concluded.
In the first quarter of 2022, Sempra Energy, the parent company of SoCalGas, spent $1,961,178.39 lobbying the California legislature. This big influx of fossil fuel cash even exceeded the $952,366.91 spent on lobbying California officials by the Western States Petroleum Association and the $1,016,168.17 spent by Chevron during the quarter.
Altogether, WSPA, Chevron, Sempra and other oil and gas corporations and trade associations pumped a total of $6 million into advancing the fossil fuel industry agenda in 2022’s first quarter.
The vote by the Appropriations Committee to gut the bill was not a surprise because several prominent committee members have received thousands of dollars from Sempra Energy and SoCal Gas. Recipients of Sempra money include Senator Portantino (D-25) ($22,250), Senator Bradford (D-35) ($34,300) and Senator Jones (R-38) ($35,000). Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-39) has received $37,000, according to Food and Water Watch’s analysis of data from the California Secretary of State.
“While Governor Newsom has mandated a fast-track for the site’s closure, he declined to publicly support SB 1486 or any effort to solidify a closure timeline. The Public Utilities Commission voted to increase the site’s storage capacity in November 2021 despite strong community opposition. The 2015 gas blowout that made Aliso Canyon’s name synonymous with disaster sickened thousands of residents, many of whom are still suffering health effects like cancer and asthma today,” said Vega.