The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

California:
After Gas Leak Disaster, Unsafe Storage

Feb 29, 2016

“Shut It All Down, Now!” That’s what the residents of Porter Ranch demand of Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas): to shut down the Aliso Canyon underground natural gas storage facility near Porter Ranch.

And they are right. After a corroded, 62-year-old well there developed a leak in October, thousands and thousands of tons of methane gas gushed into the air unhindered for four months until, faced with constant protests, SoCalGas finally stopped the leak – but not before the leaking gas caused headaches, nausea, nosebleeds; put carcinogens in the air; constantly threatened a huge fire; and drove more than 5,000 households from their homes for months.

And now SoCalGas refuses to shut down the facility – even though at least 39 of the 115 active wells at Aliso Canyon are more than 60 years old and highly prone to corrosion and leaks. Even during the four-month leak, at least six of those wells had problems and needed repairs – according to what SoCalGas itself reported.

Instead of taking at least some safety measures, SoCalGas makes the usual threats, such as, “If the facility is shut down, gas prices will go up.” In other words, customers are supposed to pay for the leak, which was a direct result of SoCalGas’s failure to take some very basic safety measures in the first place!

And public officials and politicians, who looked the other way when SoCalGas was operating unsafe wells for decades, continue to hold the company’s profits above the interests of the public. California Senator Fran Pavley, for example, may have proposed a moratorium on gas injections into Aliso Canyon. BUT, she said, the facility could not be permanently closed.

What needs to be done is to reorganize and coordinate distribution so that the public’s needs can be met under safe conditions. If private companies are not willing to do that, those facilities should be taken out of their control, so that this vital service can be provided to the public – and safely.

That would be the logical thing to do; and that’s what a rationally organized society would do. Working people, organized to run society, could do that.

But instead, this capitalist society leaves vital services in the hands of private interests, who are interested only in their own profit. And that not only leaves the population’s needs unmet; it also makes the world unsafe for all of us.