Political promises and the realities of energy production have collided in California, leaving policymakers facing difficult decisions about the future of the state’s energy infrastructure. The fate of the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, located just north of Los Angeles in Porter Ranch, is one of the most prominent topics. While some politicians advocate for its closure and a transition to renewables, the facility remains critical to California’s energy stability.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted on a proposal to expand the capacity of the Aliso Canyon facility. This expansion increases the storage capacity from 41.16 billion cubic feet to 68.6 billion cubic feet, the highest limit allowed at the site. The CPUC justifies this move as an interim solution to ensure energy reliability and protect against soaring natural gas and electric prices.

While the Aliso Canyon facility has faced controversy in the past, Southern California Gas (SoCal Gas), the company that owns the facility, emphasizes that it adheres to the nation’s most stringent safety and monitoring requirements. And with SoCal Gas customers seeing a 128 percent rate increase from December to January, the significance of Aliso Canyon remaining open is glaringly apparent.

A CPUC analysis from a year ago confirmed a clear connection between Aliso storage and energy prices in Southern California and across the entire state. This link between increasing Aliso Canyon storage capacity and the resulting price stability highlights the facility’s role in safeguarding consumers from price shocks.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has also experienced a change of heart regarding Aliso Canyon. Five years ago, he pledged to close the facility, but today, he faces the prospect of blackouts and power shortages, prompting extensions of gas and nuclear power plants scheduled for closure. This shift gives insight into the pressing need to prioritize energy reliability over clean energy goals, at least in the short term. Like other climate-minded leaders, Newsom struggles with the practical challenges of running the state’s electric grid. 

The risk of power blackouts and surging electric bills remains a tangible threat to Californians. The consequences of outages extend beyond mere inconvenience; they impact health, safety, and the economy. Many small businesses financially struggle with increasing power rates and would have to close their doors if the alternative – a blackout – occurred, endangering the livelihood of owner and employee alike. California residents who refrigerate necessary medications or rely on oxygen machines to survive, both of which connect to electric outlets, would face significant dangers to health and well-being if an energy outage occurred.

Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility remains a crucial element of California’s energy landscape.