UPDATE Jan. 10, 2018: Commission Postpones Vote on Moratorium on New Natural Gas Connections

Business opposition is mounting to a proposed three-month moratorium on new commercial natural gas hookups in Los Angeles County, with a vote by the state Public Utilities Commission set for Thursday.

The PUC last month proposed the moratorium out of concern that a shortage of natural gas could occur in cold weather because of the sharply curtailed capacity at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Porter Ranch.

Aliso Canyon has long been the largest natural gas storage facility in Southern California. But a massive natural gas leak spewed from the facility between October 2015 and February 2016, leading to widespread illness complaints from nearby residents and prompting many to flee. When the facility reopened last summer, it was only allowed to operate at about one-third of its 80 billion cubic-foot storage capacity.

State regulators became even more concerned about natural gas supply reliability after a report late last year on the distribution network operated by Southern California Gas Co. revealed numerous outages at various points in the network. The report recommended a moratorium on all new residential and commercial connections; the PUC narrowed that to industrial and commercial accounts.

But the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Southern California Gas Co. and the Los Angeles County Business Federation, an umbrella association of local business groups, have all filed comments opposing the moratorium.

Tracy Hernandez, chief executive of the business federation, said that according to Gas Co. records, the moratorium would halt applications for roughly 700 new or expanded business operations throughout the county until April at the earliest, forcing thousands of potential employees to either wait months to start their jobs or lose those job opportunities entirely.

The PUC is set to vote on the moratorium at its monthly board meeting Thursday at its San Francisco headquarters.

Economy, education, energy and transportation reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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