Like a kindly uncle who lingers on the sofa after Christmas, the Southern California Gas Company has overstayed its welcome in Playa del Rey. And like the kindly uncle who pulls candies out of his pocket to give to the kiddies, the Southern California Gas Company plies its hosts with gifts to ensure its presence is overlooked.
The Public Affairs Manager, has the untenable task of covering up for this growing blight on our community. A kindly, competent person whose job it is to maintain a changing status quo, he works hard to fund educational grants for our community. In essence, his job is to make us forget about the pollution caused by a relic of a plant that has overstayed its welcome.
I grew up in Westchester and spent my days at The Gillis like every good Westchester High student. When I asked my parents about the smell, and later, when my children asked me about the smell, the answer was, “That’s just the Gas Company, honey. “
But times have changed, and as a grandparent who has seen the effects of housing an anachronistic and dangerous host, I want to see some local leadership that protects our community instead of collecting grants for education from So Cal Gas. Now when my grandkids ask, “What is that smell?” I say, “It’s mercaptan, honey. It’s a toxic chemical. When you smell that you know that gas is where it’s not supposed to be.”
I have attended many Neighborhood Council meetings to learn more about this issue. As I sit in the council meetings I am stunned at the range of issues this body oversees. I appreciate their hard work on behalf of our community. Additionally, I wonder how long the Gas Company will control the confidence of this body, despite mounting evidence that the site has lost its value in our community. Given lessons learned from Aliso Canyon, the very real dangers this neighbor presents for all of us cannot be placated with a few dollars.
The Public Affairs Manager aims to calm fears about future possible disasters, but he is neither scientist nor engineer. He speaks for the financial benefit of his employers. I am confident that his counterpart in Aliso Canyon said much of the same, and certainly did not expect the horrific situation that occurred there to happen. But it did.
A news release on December 22, 2017 by South Coast Air Quality Management District cited many violations of foul odors and public nuisance of the Aliso Canyon facility and the same bulletin notes that “since January, SCAQMD has issued nine Notices of Violation to SoCalGas facilities across the Southland including at Playa del Rey, Pico Rivera, Monterey Park and Los Angeles. Two of those violations were for causing a public nuisance and the remaining seven were for violating various SCAQMD rules and regulations.” These are the kinds of things that are likely with an antiquated facility.
In response to public concern, The Public Affairs Manager is offering tours of the Playa del Rey gas storage site. Community members may tour the facility in small groups by RSVP screening. I encourage community members to attend the tours and see up close what blight is living in our lovely coastland. You can contact RSVP directly by email or phone (213-244-4633; MHarriel@semprautilities.com).
When you visit, ask l about the colocation with a previous tenant on the property, and the gas that is transported to and from the site, with no possible oversight or control by the Gas Company. Ask them about Aliso Canyon when he explains that the CPUC and Doggr monitor the site to ensure its safety. Did the CPUC and Doggr also monitor the Aliso Canyon site when it spilled its toxic fumes on a much less populated site deep in a canyon?
Ask the purpose of the continued use of the site, and see if he explains that it currently stores gas that is imported from all over the country to be housed until the price of gas is lucrative, then distributed.
Be curious .
As our community grows, it is less and less acceptable to harbor an antiquated sleeping giant of a danger. An earthquake, a leak, an undetected break in a plant that was constructed in the 1940’s—any one of a myriad of unexpected events—could lead to disaster in our large hub of population growth.
It’s time to thank So Cal Gas for its contributions, and remind them that they are guests in our community who have overstayed their welcome. Times have changed, and so have our understandings of the risks and benefits of housing an antiquated facility in our midst. We can no longer look the other way. Constructed when Playa del Rey was no more than an outpost, the site now sits in a hub of residences, business, leisure, education, and commerce. When the Aliso Canyon event took place, everyone within a 5 mile radius was evacuated for months. Take a minute to see how many schools, homes, and businesses, including the airport, would be affected if a similar event took place here.
Use that opportunity to ask hard questions. See what you are driving by every day while you look the other way.
We have seen nature’s destruction as we viewed the floods and fires in our neighboring communities. Nature does not leave us empowered. But we are wise to do what we can to protect ourselves from dangers we can reasonably predict.
Let us not leave ourselves vulnerable to a preventable disaster. As the elders in our community we have a responsibility to speak up for ourselves, our children and the generations yet to come. For more information: https://www.scpr.org/news/2016/02/24/57876/like-porter-ranch-playa-del-rey-montebello-and-oth/