Feb. 12, 2016
The 4,500 members of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) who work for SoCalGas are fully engaged in addressing the Aliso Canyon storage facility gas leak. We are working together with SoCalGas management and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to correct potential dangers in gas delivery to provide safe, reliable service to our Southern California neighbors.
The UWUA has represented workers at SoCalGas continuously since the 1940s. UWUA members and their union have always advocated for safe, reliable service to the public, and will continue to do so to assure accountability and achieve safety improvements and infrastructure maintenance to ensure another Aliso Canyon never happens again.
The UWUA occupies a unique position as its members work daily on SoCalGas facilities. They are aware of the condition of the facilities, and interact with consumers and utility management on a daily basis. As a result, UWUA members have information and observations of significant value to the public, legislators and regulators as they seek to solve problems associated with gas storage, transmission and distribution.
Following the San Bruno disaster, utility workers and their unions throughout the state worked diligently with state policymakers and regulators to transform the safety culture of California utilities. The UWUA sponsored Senate Bills 705 (Leno, 2011) and 1371 (Leno, 2014) to address problems in gas service and provide a road map for addressing problems with gas transportation and gas storage. We have been actively engaged in implementing these laws at the CPUC. We have worked diligently to implement their spirit and letter in daily operations at SoCalGas.
Senate Bill 705 establishes the basic safety framework for the post San Bruno gas industry. The union is working to address the cultural, operational and procedural changes consistent with SB 705 to establish that safety is the highest priority in the operation of the gas system. To achieve these changes, the law requires creation of safety plans that proactively identify operational hazards and preventive measures.
Senate Bill 1371, also sponsored by UWUA, directs the CPUC and utilities to develop leak reduction strategies to address the release of methane as an urgent priority. It changes the CPUC’s previous preferred approach of venting leaky gas to the atmosphere.
Both laws provide a place at the table for workers to bring their insights in an organized way to improve the outcomes for the public. They require an adequate workforce with the necessary training and tools to operate and maintain the system.
These laws help ensure that the safety and integrity of pipelines will be improved, methane emissions that contribute to climate change will be reduced, and family-sustaining jobs for workers will be created and maintained. It’s a win-win-win for the State of California, and it’s a model for other states across the country. We look forward to continuing this necessary work to ensure another San Bruno or Aliso Canyon never happens again.
Investment in utility infrastructure is key to the success of our efforts to reduce hazards and improve service. Utility infrastructure includes both the physical facilities needed to deliver the essential service and the workers who construct, operate, and maintain the physical facilities. We have supported the efforts of SoCalGas to obtain needed funding at the CPUC for facility upgrades and operational improvements, including workforce training and skill development.
At the national level, the UWUA is working with a coalition of unions and environmental groups– the BlueGreen Alliance. The UWUA call to Reclaim, Retrain, Repower and Repair America is being heard in California, where we actively join with our fellow unions and the Environmental Defense Fund in proposing improved best practices in leak reduction. It should not take another disaster for a proactive preventive approach to gas leaks and infrastructure improvement to be embraced nationally.
The Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), AFL-CIO represents more than 50,000 active members employed in the energy, electric, gas, steam, water, telecommunications, generation, and related professional, technical and service industries.
Contact: Michael Yellin – 917-434-6130
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