Local advocates protest SoCal Gas Plan to expand West Ventura Compressor Station

Five hundred people live within a quarter mile of the plant.

by Richard Lieberman

The Westside Clean Air Coalition, CFROG, Food and Water Watch, Cause, and members of the West Ventura Community protested at a community forum with a stated goal of disrupting a Southern California Gas Company public forum. Designed to expand public awareness on the company’s proposed modernization and expansion of the Ventura Compressor Station located at 1555 N. Olive Street in Ventura.

Southern California Gas Company sponsored a public forum on Thursday, March 31, at the Crowne Plaza which is one of six proposed public forums the company will host from March 29 through April 2.

Concerns over air quality, climate change, and safety of local neighborhoods including the 91-year-old school E.P Foster Elementary School located directly across the street from the facility.

Protestors, among other things, want an independent Environmental Impact Report normally conducted by a government entity.

Five hundred people live within a quarter mile of the plant with another 4,750 live within one half mile. Close enough to be affected by a gas leak or in the worst case an explosion at the plant. Pipeline explosions have happened in the past. The San Bruno pipeline explosion occurred September 10, 2010, and first responders and SoCal Gas crews took over an hour to identify the event as a gas pipeline explosion. Eight people were killed because of the explosion. The natural gas compressor has been operating at the site since 1923, before homes and the elementary school were built in the area.

The compressor facility distributes natural gas for heat, hot water, and other uses to over a quarter million homes, businesses and industries in Ventura and the central coast. Southern California Gas wants to replace three gas compressors built in the 1980’s with four new more modern compressors. The company also wants to rebuild an old warehouse and office building that are already set for demolition.

Tomas Morales Rebecchi spokesperson for the group said “We are speaking up about a polluter in our neighborhood on our Westside across the street from a school. it poses a pollution danger to us through air pollution, but also a physical danger too through explosions and other horrible things that could go wrong. So, we are here to protect our air and to protect our children from the dangers of the gas compressor.”

On the day of the forum the United States Transportation Department issued a new rule for all companies with high pressure pipelines to install emergency shutoff valves that quickly shutoff oil or natural gas pipelines when a leak or rupture is detected.

Southern California Gas responded to the protestors with assurances of safety and careful operation of the gas facility. “SoCal Gas safely maintains it’s natural gas system by collaboratively working with multiple regulatory agencies with oversight of our operations.” Stated Marissa Girolamo. Addressing the call for an Environmental Impact Report Girolamo said, “whether and Environmental Impact Report is required for a project depends on the type of permits required. For this project an EIR is not being undertaken because the project is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).”

We understand that the community has concerns regarding facility safety. The facility is safe and equipped with a series of systems that protect our employees and the neighboring community. All these systems are routinely checked and verified for proper operations.” She added.

SoCal Gas literature states that Methane detection sensors are installed in the compressor building to closely monitor methane leaks. . The station is also equipped with an emergency shutdown system that is deigned to isolate the station from all energy sources when triggered, including when methane leaks are detected inside the compressor station. “This equipment is intended to provide additional transparency and the data will be made available to the public.” Concluded Girolamo

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