EIR Report & CPUC Findings

“The purpose of an environmental impact report (EIR) is to provide public agencies and the public in general with detailed information about the effect which a proposed project is likely to have on the environment; to list ways in which the significant effects of such a project might be minimized; and to indicate alternatives to such a project” (Pub. Resources Code, §  21061).  As the SNGS insists and the EIR confirms,the potential for gas leakage, explosion and groundwater contamination is remote.  However, the California Public Utility Commission noted in its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) that “significant and unmitigable impacts were identified,” including potential problems such as the release of hazardous materials, impacts to drinking water quality, and possible fires and explosions once the depleted natural gas reservoir is repressurized.  The DEIR concluded that SNGS’s proposal poses real dangers for residents. The final EIR repeats these findings.  In a recent ex parte filing with the CPUC, The Greenlining Institute summarizes these concerns and reminded all parties that pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) the CPUC must not approve a project for which there are significant and unavoidable effects.  Read the Greenlining statement here.  Download the Final EIR here.  (It is a large file with 703 pages so be patient when downloading.)

Florin Gas Field and old wellsCPUC Findings

Two filings favorable to the proposal came in March 2012 from PUC Administrative Law Judge Richard Smith and PUC Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon. In his filing, Smith wrote that the economic, legal, social and other benefits of the project justify approval, despite unavoidable environmental effects such as potential water quality issues.  Commissioner Simon noted that the project would advance the state’s energy policies and mitigate potential risks and consequences of a disruption in natural gas supply to SMUD.  He also pointed to the need to respect the property rights of residents signing leases and the need to ensure gas infrastructure and advance the state’s economy. “At some point, we have to respect commerce, which is needed in this state.” (read the article from the California Energy news here)

However, Commissioner Florio pointed out in his proposed decision to deny the permit that no one knows if there are fissures in the cap rock or if gas can seep around the edges of the field. “Even though the risk of gas leakage is low, the consequences of such leakage in a populated area would be catastrophic,” Florio concludes. “These impacts remain significant and unavoidable and present an unacceptable risk to the public” (see the Sacramento Bee article here).

Commissioner Sandoval expressed concern with gas migrating to the surface via a process known as stepladdering where gas can escape via old gas wells or faults in the earth and travel in a sequence of vertical and lateral movements.  Both old wells and a faultline can be found in the proposed storage facility site.  Listen to Commissioner Sandoval discuss “stepladdering” in the video on the right. See Commissioner Sandoval express her concerns with the Playa del Rey  and Montebello gas storage facilities which, she argues, demonstrate the potential for harm to residents.

Commissioner Ferron was concerned with the potential environmental and safety risks to hundreds of nearby homes and noted that the commission has yet to approve such a project under an existing neighborhood.  “It gives me great pause that the [environmental impact report] says there are significant risks of gas migration or leakages which could degrade groundwater quality, lead to asphyxiation hazards or even explosions and that these deadly risks cannot be mitigated,” Ferron said (See the Sacramento Bee article here).