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LA Can Expect Blackouts This Summer Thanks to Porter Ranch Gas Leak

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The Aliso Canyon gas leak is the disaster that keeps on giving

Aerial photo of the blown out well in Porter Ranch, 2015. Earthworks

The enormous gas leak near Porter Ranch stretched on for months last year and into this one, becoming the biggest methane leak ever in the US. Thousands of people were displaced and many still worry about health effects. But that's not all: because the Southern California Gas Company lost so much natural gas in the leak, officials are now predicting shortages and subsequent power outages this summer.

Now an official report out from four government agencies fleshes out the details about exactly what the gas shortages could mean for the greater Los Angeles area, says that LA Times.

Since the leak, the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon storage facility—its largest—has been holding only about one-fifth of its total capacity. It's also not allowed to have any more gas injected until the full gamut of inspections has been performed—a process that "could potentially take months."

But summer is a key time for the Aliso Canyon facility. Gizmodo says that the storage site was a vital backup that "could quickly be brought online during peak hours" during summer, when demand is highest. Now that the facility is down for a while, it won't be able to perform that very important function.

And without it up and running, there's "a distinct possibility of electricity service interruptions in the coming summer months," says a report by the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, the LADWP, and the California Independent System Operator.

What kind of interruptions? "[U]p to 14 days this summer with gas shortages to electrical power plants that could be large enough to interrupt electrical service to utility customers," says the report, as well as power outages from anywhere between eight and 18 days sometime later in the year, according to the Times.

The multi-agency findings include a list of recommendations that could help to reduce the risk of blackouts—things like turning down the air conditioning and taking cooler showers, because "Saving electricity is really one of the best ways to save gas," an LADWP rep tells the Times. The suggestion was even made that the remaining gas in the Aliso Canyon field be put to use. But the report notes that these measures "will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of gas shortages this summer that are large enough to cause electricity interruptions for the region’s residents and businesses."

It sounds like the best-case scenario is, as the chair of the state Energy Commission says, that there are scheduled outages for some but not all customers, which is seen as a more preferable alternative to rolling blackouts that hit whole areas of the city hard and by surprise.