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Judge Denies County's Bid To Block Reopening Of Aliso Canyon

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On Friday, an L.A. County Superior Court Judge denied Los Angeles County's bid to block the reopening of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch. The facility, which was home to the largest methane leak in U.S. history, was cleared to reopen by state regulators last week, albeit in a limited capacity.

The leak, which began in October 2015 and wasn't capped until February 2016, forced thousands out of their homes and spewed 109,000 metric tons of methane into the air. Southern California Gas Company, which is responsible for the facility, asserted that "Aliso Canyon is safe to operate" in a letter sent to community groups and elected officials on Monday.

The county had sought a temporary restraining order and injunction to halt the reopening of the facility, asking that it remain closed until further testing could be completed and residents' health concerns were more sufficiently addressed. Their request was denied on jurisdictional grounds, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley Jr. ruling that he didn't have the authority to "interfere" with the operations of a facility governed by the California Public Utilities Commission, according to City News Service. The county plans to appeal the decision.

"This afternoon, Judge Wiley denied the County's request on jurisdictional grounds, stating that he did not have the authority to consider the temporary restraining order to block reinjection at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility. The County plans to go to the Court of Appeals this afternoon to request an emergency stay until the County can file for further injunctive relief," County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement.

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"The County’s first priority is to protect the health and safety of the residents of Porter Ranch and the northwest San Fernando Valley," Barger continued. "I believe that allowing Aliso Canyon to begin reinjecting puts the residents in a potentially unsafe environment.”

Related: Protesters Rally Against The Planned Reopening Of Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Facility