Earlier this month, Food & Water Action joined Save Porter Ranch and dozens of residents from communities surrounding the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility at the first Gubernatorial Town Hall at the University of Southern California to call on the candidates to support the shutdown of the dangerous facility. Aliso Canyon was the site of a 2015 gas blowout—the worst in U.S. history—and families in the surrounding area continue to experience health symptoms from ongoing leaks.
Residents submitted more than 100 questions on the issue to the moderators from local NPR and ABC affiliates at the panel sponsored by the Empowerment Congress and a Los Angeles County Supervisor. Unfortunately, the moderators did not ask the candidates about Aliso Canyon, but rather focused their questions about climate change on recent fires, mudslides, first responders and disaster preparedness. Community members were disappointed that the moderators missed the opportunity to question the candidates about the effect of the continued use of fossil fuels on climate change and any plans the gubernatorial hopefuls might have to transition California to renewable energy.
However, a press conference before the event garnered extensive local coverage on television and in the Los Angeles Times.
After the Town Hall, residents affected by Aliso Canyon were able to buttonhole the Democratic candidates to ask about their support for shutting down the dangerous gas fields.
Former California Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin promised to shut down Aliso Canyon promptly if elected. She also supports a ban on fracking and said it was “outrageous” that Aliso Canyon is still open.
Frontrunner Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom at first agreed with current Governor Jerry Brown that it would take up to ten years to decommission the gas facility. Once residents pointed out that thousands are suffering from health effects like nosebleeds, headaches and respiratory symptoms, he pledged to look into it.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa claimed ignorance on the issue but promised to follow up.
State Treasurer John Chiang also said he needs to look into it.
Food & Water Action, Save Porter Ranch and families in the San Fernando Valley plan to continue to pressure Governor Brown to shut down Aliso Canyon before he leaves office next year. If he fails, if will be up to the new governor to take action, and the candidates have been put on notice.
Highlights of news coverage: