Posted by: rebedw | May 5, 2009

Sacramento Natural Gas Storage Project: A Resource or A Threat?

Sacramento Natural Gas Storage Project (SNGS) is proposing the storage of 7.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas 3800 feet underground. Such a natural storage “bank” would be used to help meet Sacramento’s increasing demand for energy during high seasons and in the case of an emergency. While such an emergency storage bank would be a huge resource for the area, the proposed site resides under 700 homes. The California Public Utility Commission just published its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) noting that, “significant and unmitigable impacts were identified,” including potential hazards such as the release of hazardous materials, impacts to drinking water quality, and possible fires and explosions to name a few. The DEIR concludes that SNGS’s proposal poses real dangers for residents.

Quoted on the SNGS website Jeff Raimundo states that “This project won’t move forward unless we can prove it is safe…we understand that we have to prove that, and we intend to.” The company needs to get signatures from the land-owners of the proposed site and SNGS offers both a signing bonus and annual payments for the use of the land (payment based on 0.20acre land parcels). The SNGS’s most recent newsletter, fall 2008, reported that more than 680 property owners representing more than 450 properties, a majority of eligible properties, had signed approval leases. These numbers represent signatures obtained before the DEIR was released, which leads one to question whether residents have been fully informed of the safety issues at hand. As financial incentive plays a role for both the residents and SNGS, is there a particular basis on which these homes are being targeted for such a potentially dangerous project? Are residents receiving accurate information on safety to base their decision? And furthermore are these residents forced to make personal decisions between financial gain and safety?

Taking power relationships into consideration, it is interesting to see what SNGS has to gain from having signatures in support of their project on a basis other than safety. As multiple stakeholders take into consideration whether or not to allow for this development, safety will be a central issue of concern. Resident signatures can be used to show understanding and support, but the issue of financial gain and possible lack of accurate information in regards to safety may mean that those signatures misrepresent the true opinions of residents. CORE (Coalition on Regional Equity) and AGENA (Avondale/Glen Elder Neighborhood Association) along with other community partnerships are working on making neighbors accurately aware of the potential dangers. Both CORE and AGENDA note that the California Public Utility Commission says that the safest thing for everyone would be not to store gas under our homes at all.

The DEIR clearly addresses potential hazards, but when are the dangers threat enough for us to consider alternatives? When signatures are coming before understanding of potential threats, we really have to question if the honest safety and well-being of our neighbors is top priority. The basis for choosing this site may very well be based simply on the fact that with a factor of financial gain, in a lower-income area, there is a lower likelihood of resistance. But is this regional resource for many worth the sacrifice of a few?

For more information

Sacramento Bee article: http://www.sacbee.com/ourregion/story/1777803.html

Sacramento Natural Gas Storage website: http://www.sacnaturalgas.com

Draft Environmental Impact Report: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/dudek/sngs/DraftEIR.htm

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