Proposed Gas Storage Field Raises Safety Concerns

Safety is always foremost in the mind of our Sacramento natural gas accident attorney and our entire legal team. The Brod Law Firm is proud to support victims of utility accidents in Sacramento and to represent both individuals and class action groups in Sacramento toxic tort lawsuits. We also support efforts to ensure that utility companies operate in a safe manner that helps to prevent tragic accidents that can end or forever alter the lives of our fellow Californians.

Commissioner Florio of the California Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) is working to block a local utility company from storing natural gas in a sandstone formation 3,800 feet below Avondale Glen Elder, a neighborhood in Sacramento. Florio is opposing the request by Sacramento National Gas Storage LLC to undertake the $70 million project and store 7.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The site is the former Florin Gas Field, a depleted natural gas reservoir, located underneath a 379 acre parcel of land containing more than 700 homes. If the PUC approves the request, the company would then need to seek a permit from the city for the project. Ultimately, the company would seek contracts with utility companies looking to store gas at the location. Company officials say they already have a commitment from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District that would use at least half of the field’s capacity.

In his statement opposing the project, Florio cited three significant impacts that, per the environmental impact report, could not meet the requirement of being mitigated to less than significant levels. The three areas are: 1) Potential hazard of a gas leak following gas field re-pressurization for storage; 2) Potential impact on the quality of groundwater due to operations and maintenance of the gas field; and 3) Temporary elevation of noise levels due to construction at the wellhead site. Florio notes that some of the potential for leaks is low but that the impact could be catastrophic and long-lasting.

Approximately three-quarters of the impacted property owners have signed agreements permitting the company to store gas beneath their properties in exchange for initial $500 bonuses and future annual lease payments. While some community organizers applauded Florio’s opposition statement, company representatives note that two other proposed rulings from the PUC have advocated in favor of approval, suggesting the project is safe and necessary for the region. One filing from PUC Administrative Law Judge Richard Smith concluded that the benefits of the project, including economic and social results, justify approving the proposal despite unavoidable environmental impacts. PUC Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon also wrote in support of the project but did call for additional conditions including requiring the company to purchase a general liability policy that would cost $4 million and provide a minimum of $100 million in coverage. Simon also called for the company to purchase a surety bond that would cover potential costs such as remedying negative impacts of groundwater.

Gregory Brod is an experienced Sacramento utility accident attorney. The team at The Brod Law Firm urges the PUC and officials in Sacramento to make safety a priority as they consider the natural gas storage proposal. We are prepared to represent victims of natural gas and oil industry accidents but know that prevention is always the best option.

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