Neighborhood Associations Battle Huge, Underground Gas Storage

Protesters voice opposition to proposed underground gas storage facility. PG&E, Wells Fargo, and SMUD behind project by Michael Mo...

Protesters voice opposition to proposed underground gas storage facility.

PG&E, Wells Fargo, and SMUD behind project
by Michael Monasky

Two south Sacramento neighborhood associations protested at a city park along Power Inn Road Wednesday evening to alert passersby about pending approval of an underground gas storage facility. Sacramento Natural Gas Storage has funding from Wells Fargo and agreements with PG&E and SMUD to store 7.5 billion (yes, that's BILLION) cubic feet of natural gas below 700 homes on nearly 400 acres of land, including the site of the protest, Sacramento's Danny Nunn Park. That's about 375 times more gas than is stored above ground in Elk Grove near Grantline Road and State Highway 99.

Avondale-Glen Elder Neighborhood Association (AGENA) represents the residents who will live above the gas storage facility. President Jermain Gill said that the battle has been waged for five years and will likely continue for some time in the courts, even after the Sacramento City Council gives a likely permit.

Faye Kennedy leads the nearby South East Village Neighborhood Association (SEVNA). Although the project is not directly below their member residents, Kennedy said the associations have rallied together in solidarity to oppose a project which puts public safety at hazard.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has tabled the application for discussion at today's hearings in San Francisco, and will take action June 21. It was streamed online, and the division of the commission was apparent.

Commissioners Mike Florio, Catherine Sandoval, and Mark Ferron expressed concern that the 2010 San Bruno-PG&E pipeline explosions that killed eight and leveled nearly 40 homes gave them pause in deciding approval of this project. Sandoval was particularly critical, stating that she had personal, residential experience with “substantial leaks” from local oil and gas wells, with “houses being condemned” and “people being evacuated.” Sandoval countered that geological time was irrelevant: these events “happened during my life time,” and the commission should make the “need to promote safety” its primary goal.

Commissioners Timothy Simon and CPUC President Michael Peevey were not convinced that the project was significantly unsafe. Simon said that “we need to respect commerce.” Peevey seemed befuddled by the definition of “significant” in determining whether the project should proceed.

Public comment can be made to the CPUC Public Advisor, who will forward comments to the commissioners and staff, at The project, under application number 07-04-013, can be studied at the CPUC website.

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