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San Fernando Valley Residents Call for a Countdown To Shut Down Aliso Canyon in 2020

“This is this morning’s nosebleed.” This was the pronouncement from Save Porter Ranch’s co-founder and president Matt Pakucko, holding up…

“This is this morning’s nosebleed.” This was the pronouncement from Save Porter Ranch’s co-founder and president Matt Pakucko, holding up a baggie of bloody tissues. His message resonated with the some 75 residents and activists who gathered on a blustery morning in Porter Ranch, just a mile south of the SoCalGas gate, the origin of the largest gas disaster in US history. The purpose of this rally, held on the four year anniversary of the capping of well SS-25, was to call on Governor Newsom to set a date this year for the closure of Aliso Canyon.

Addressing the crowd, Pakucko said, “I can’t believe this is four years later and we’re still doing this.” He said the gas storage site is being used a lot more, leading to many residents getting sick, including getting nosebleeds. His partner and Save Porter Ranch co-founder, Kyoko Hibino showed the many bags of bloody tissues she has collected due to many nosebleeds.

Referring to Governor Newsom’s November letter to the CPUC regarding expediting the facility’s closure, he said, “He’s just stalling. It’s quite the brilliant political move to send that letter to the CPUC.” He added that the governor will be riding on that letter, but “for the next year, we’re going to ride that one up the you-know-what. Newsom, you need to shut this place down.”

Alexandra Nagy, the state director of Food & Water Watch, welcomed the crowd, listing the many groups represented: Food and Water Action, Save Porter Ranch, the Aliso Moms Alliance, Sunrise Movement LA, Extinction Rebellion LA, and residents. She said the goal of the rally was to ask Governor Newsom for a countdown to shut down Aliso Canyon by the end of 2020, and also to demand that he get the withdrawals of gas from the facility stopped, noting that the use of the facility had increased over 1000 per cent since Newsom took office in 2019.

Alex Nagy addresses the rally

She said “We pushed Newsom up and down California. We birddogged Newsom all over LA, we met him at galas, at fundraisers all over the state, at Democratic conventions, we blockaded the Aliso storage facility.” She added that we got him agreeing to the shut down on video. She mentioned Jane Fonda has been participating at the Fire Drill Fridays. Alex said that she just took part in a sit down at Maverick. She explained that these are the kinds of actions that we need to keep doing to get Aliso to the finish line, urging those present to stay in this fight.

Council member John Lee talked about the original deadline of ten years set by the previous governor, Jerry Brown in 2017. He said he introduced a resolution to work out a plan “so we can have metrics in place,” for a shut down. He mentioned that County Supervisor Kathryn Barger “introduced a similar resolution to urge Newsom to meet with us.” He said he wants to meet Governor Newsom, along with fellow council member Mike Bonin, and supervisors Barger and Janice Hahn, about asking Newsom to “actually come up with an actual plan to replace the energy” lost if Aliso is closed. He said that he wants to coordinate with residents to have a bus that he will sponsor to bring them to city hall on the day his resolution comes up for a vote.

Currently the resolution, introduced on December 11, has been in limbo, waiting to be passed by the Rules committee.

When asked if he was in favor of closing Aliso in 2020, he said “I’m willing to work with the governor to replace the energy.” But added, ‘I can not commit to this year because I don’t know what the plan is.”

Lee’s opponent in next month’s election, Loraine Lundquist said, “It’s time for it (Aliso) to be shut down and be shut down now.” She added, “We have been out here for too long, for more than four years that we have been fighting. We continue to get nothing, we continue to have to come out here to fight.” She vowed that the community is not going to stop fighting until “we get this place shut down for good.”

Loraine Lundquist asks the fundamental question of the day

Lundquist explained, “Part of the reason I’m running for LA city council is because when we began fighting for this, our council office betrayed us.” She said they were told if they write a resolution to shut it down, the council member would introduce it. But then then the office refused to meet with the activists. She insisted, “We need a council member who will care for the community and fight for the community. We don’t need this facility. It’s poisoning us. It’s time to get it shut down.”

Also speaking was the write in candidate for the city council seat for CD-12, Asaad Alnajjar, who is also in favor of a quick closure.

Darrell Park, Asaad Alnajjar, Brandii Grace, and Loraine Lundquist prepare to ask for a Countdown to Shut Down at rally. Photo by Rick Canter

A candidate for LA County Supervisor, Darrell Park told those gathered, “I want every person to understand that you have the power to shut Aliso Canyon down.” He added that “the most disgusting three letters are SRE, the stock symbol for the gas company’s parent company Sempra Energy.” He asked those assembled to pass on the word to anyone who is a state employee to ask the state to divest of Sempra stock.”

“They know the elected officials aren’t doing their job. That the regulators don’t’ give two craps,” he said about SoCalGas. “They have been making people sick.”

Brandii Grace, who’s running for the Assembly, talked about how small children have been exposed to the toxins, and also mentioned the danger from the recent wild fire. “We don’t need this facility and we don’t want this facility,” she said.

Among the residents taking the bullhorn at the rally was Jane Fowler who brought up the two gas pipelines that were out of commission, yet SoCalGas is using the Aliso facility to withdraw She started feeling bad again with headaches, the Aliso cough, stomach issues. “My skin gets so itchy and red. A week and a half ago it was so bad I wanted to peel my skin off. “

“I’ve grown fond of my community. There’s amazing people in this fight,” she said. “But at some point, your health is important. So with great sadness I will leave you, but I’ll be with you in spirit this. I will miss you all. Many people have moved out, we shouldn’t have to move from this beautiful area. I’m moving out. I’m sure they’ll be more to follow.”

She urged Governor Newsom to shut down Aliso Canyon by the end of the year.

Dina Cottrell thanked Alex for the webinar that educated the residents and activists about Aliso. She talked about how her family has been battling cancer and how they have lost pets. Her children went to Castlebay Elementary years before, where some of their teachers have passed away. “It makes me wonder what was in there.” She addressed the governor, “now it’s time for you to step up.”

Maureen Capra told the crowd that she had lived in Porter Ranch for 44 years “Over the last 40 years, we have smelled it off and on.” She mentioned that growing up “my children had bloody noses. Two people on my street got cancer. It’s got to be shut down as it’s killing us.”

Banners over the 118 freeway. Photo by Rick Canter

At the end of the speeches, many helped carry a couple of banners to hang on the 118 overpass, facing eastward and westward.

As Pakucko said, “So much has gone against SoCalGas, especially in the last few months that this is the time to ramp it up. It’s going to shut down as long as we stay in this fight and push even harder. This is the year, this is the last year we’re going to have to do this.”