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Appeals Court Approves L.A. County's Bid To Temporarily Block Reopening Of Aliso Canyon

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A state appeals court approved L.A. County's bid to temporarily block re-injecting natural gas into the Aliso Canyon storage facility. The decision came Friday evening, a few hours after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. rejected the county's bid, claiming he did not have jurisdiction over the matter. This will delay the reopening of the natural gas facility, which was approved for reopening by state regulators last week.

The Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility had the largest methane leak in national history. It lasted from October 2015 to February 2016 and sickened or forced evacuations of many Porter Ranch residents in northwest San Fernando Valley. Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency over the leak in January 2016. Even after the leak was capped, there have been almost 950 complaints of nosebleeds, headaches, and nausea in the area since March 2016, according to L.A. Daily News.

The County sued state regulators and Southern California Gas Co. back in March, claiming the state had not done comprehensive safety and environmental reviews. The suit was amended after regulators announced Aliso Canyon could reopen; this time, the County requested documents be turned over and demanded a stay of the decision to reopen the facility, according to the L.A. Times.

The County argues the facility shouldn't reopen until a full study is completed regarding the cause of the leak in 2015 and a full geographic survey is conducted on the facility, considering its location on top of the Santa Susana fault line, according to City News Service.

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Judge Wiley's decision rejected these new lawsuit demands, but County attorneys immediately submitted emergency filings to the state court of appeals, according to City News Service. SoCalGas and state gas and oil officials have until 6 p.m. Saturday to file motions against the temporary stay, according to the L.A. Times.

In response to the temporary stay, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement how "[t]his ruling recognizes that there are still significant issues that need to be considered by the Court before reinjection is allowed at the Aliso Canyon facility, including an analysis for the root-cause of the massive 2015 blowout, seismic risk assessments, and a long-term energy reliability study." Porter Ranch residents agree; after the initial Friday afternoon ruling rejecting the temporary stay, Mike Pakucko of the activist organization Save Porter Ranch told the L.A. Daily News "I’m sick to my stomach," and “[t]he judge can’t read." Other activists who attended the hearing emerged confused about the ruling. Deirdre Bolona of Porter Ranch expressed her frustration, telling the L.A. Times, "This is a slap in the face of the citizens of the San Fernando Valley — and beyond."