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Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and that goes for blackout threats too.
 
The California Senate Energy, Utilities & Commerce Committee has set an oversight hearing for May 10th to ask state energy regulators about last week's controversial report that absent Aliso Canyon's gas storage there would be blackouts this summer in Southern California. 
 
A report by engineer Bill Powers for Food and Water Watch found key mispresentations, omissions, and misstatements about demand and capacity.  Consumer Watchdog asked for the oversight hearings and that the witnesses for the state be put under oath about who really wrote the study, as Southern California Gas, the owner of Aliso's gas storage, was listed as an author. The company stands to lose billions if Aliso remains shut and Governor Brown's sister sits on So Cal Gas parent company Sempra's board.
 
No oaths will be administered committee staff say, but the agencies that released the report under their seals -- the Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission, CA Independent Systems Operator and LA Department of Water and Power -- will have to answer questions about it.  
 
Details remain to be determined, and the devil's always in the details.
Will PUC President Mike Picker have to return and explain the phony numbers he already presented once to the committee? Will engineer Bill Powers will be able to present his opposition report and provide technical insight to the committee on a very technical issue? Both sides should be heard if the hearing is meant to shed light and not simply give energy regulators and So Cal Gas cover.  
 
In reviewing the state/So Cal Gas report, Powers uncovered multiple misstatements about the availability of other local natural gas storage to serve needs in lieu of Aliso, understatements about capacity and overstatements about demand.  Fundamentally, he pointed out summer is low demand season for natural gas, winter peak demand, so why would Aliso's storage be needed this summer when that's the time storage facilities are usually filled not drained?
 
What answers will the state agencies have? How tough will the questioning be? Stay tuned.  
 
The utilities are strong in the Capitol. And the union for So Cal Gas workers, IBEUW, put out a "blackout" alert threat in the Capitol recently (pictured above) to give So Cal Gas cover to keep Aliso open. But the whoppers in the recent state assessment are so big it's going to be hard for senators to ignore them.