Los Angeles utility says gas plant leaks methane

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles utility said Wednesday that one of its natural gas plants is leaking globe-warming methane, prompting calls from environmentalists to abandon plans to extend the life of other California facilities like it.

Natural gas compressors at the Valley Generating Station are leaking more than 100 kilograms of methane per hour, the LA Department of Water and Power said in a statement.

“The emissions at Valley are considered incidental emissions that are not generally subject to regulation or permitting,” the statement said.

In comparison, the DWP said, the record-setting 2015 leak at the nearby Aliso Canyon storage field was 50,000 kilograms per hour. A blowout of a natural gas well at Aliso Canyon, operated by the Southern California Gas Company, led to the largest-known release of methane in U.S. history.

Even small amounts of methane could damage the health of residents who live in neighborhoods near the Valley Generating Station, according to a statement from the Sierra Club.

“Methane leaks have been associated with volatile organic compounds that can cause cancer and other harmful health impacts,” the statement said.

The leak at the Valley Generating Station was reported to the utility last week by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which uses airborne sensors to detect and observe methane sources, the DWP said.

Major repairs at the plant are scheduled for November, “when a shutdown of Valley could be done without jeopardizing the electrical grid and potentially causing widespread power outages,” the DWP said.

The Sierra Club and other environmental advocates on Wednesday called on California officials to abandon a proposed plan to extend the life of four other gas plants in Southern California they call “old, inefficient and a danger to local communities.” The State Water Resources Control Board will vote next month on whether to retire the plants in Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Oxnard and Redondo Beach.

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This story has been corrected to say Wednesday, not Tuesday.