The Safety Ombudsman is an independent and impartial third-party underground gas storage expert whose role is to investigate safety concerns and/or complaints associated with the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility. The Safety Ombudsman is a neutral arbiter charged with reviewing and evaluating safety concerns or complaints relating to the Aliso Canyon facility independently of SoCalGas. Such independence is necessary to foster openness and transparency and provide the public with confidence in both the Safety Ombudsman and the review and evaluation process.
Strictly speaking, no. Rather, the Safety Ombudsman is an advocate for safety and transparency. One of the primary roles of the Safety Ombudsman is to investigate safety-related concerns, questions, and complaints expressed by the public and respond to them in an unbiased and objective manner. Impartiality is foundational to the role of the Safety Ombudsman. Impartiality ensures that safety complaints and/or concerns are addressed in a straightforward manner, honestly and objectively, thereby resulting in high standards of probity and propriety in safety-related matters.
No. The Safety Ombudsman functions completely independent of any direction from SoCalGas and is not supervised by, and does not report to, SoCalGas. However, SoCalGas is obligated by the Consent Decree to pay all costs and expenses incurred by the Safety Ombudsman and/or related to the Safety Ombudsman’s role.
No. Generally speaking, the Safety Ombudsman can investigate safety concerns or complaints associated with the safety of the Aliso Canyon facility, and can follow up on concerns raised by the Well and Storage Operations Safety Committee. This includes, but is not limited to, those relating to well integrity and maintenance and associated unintended leak prevention, but excludes safety issues relating to occupational health and safety. The Safety Ombudsman does not have authority to investigate issues outside of those related to the safety of the facility.
The terms of the court-approved Consent Decree between SoCalGas, the Attorney General’s Office, the Office of the City Attorney, and Los Angeles County Counsel provide that the Safety Ombudsman shall have access to all non-privileged materials, information, records, and work product in SoCalGas’ possession, custody, or control necessary to accomplish the tasks required of him, which are outlined in Section 4.3 of the Consent Decree. The Consent Decree further provides that SoCalGas shall not unreasonably deny access to such information requested by the Safety Ombudsman, nor shall it withhold information based on a claim of privilege that is not supported by applicable law.
A secure link on the website has been created so that anyone can raise a safety concern, report a safety issue, or submit questions concerning the safety of the Aliso Canyon facility to the Safety Ombudsman. Concerns or complaints may either be made in an anonymous manner, or a person may request a response to their issue/concern. The Aliso Canyon Safety Ombudsman complaint intake can be accessed via this link: http://safetyombudsman.com/.
Section 4.2 of the Consent Decree required SoCalGas to create an internal safety committee to review safety issues associated with the Aliso Canyon facility. This committee is referred to as the Well and Storage Operations Safety Committee, or WSOC. The Safety Ombudsman will work with the WSOC in conducting its investigations related to concerns or complaints posted to the website. The Safety Ombudsman will not simply rely on the information provided by the WSOC but will actively investigate issues using his gas storage expertise, and will request access to all information that is required to fully understand and address the issue.
No. The WSOC was created for the purpose of reviewing “safety issues” which includes, but is not limited to, those relating to well integrity and maintenance and associated unintended leak prevention, and excludes those relating to occupational health and safety. In addition, the WSOC shall:
- Meet at least quarterly for a period of at least eight (8) years;
- Review operational safety issues and promote safe operations at the facility consistent with applicable laws, rules, regulations, and orders;
- Review facility-related information, materials, or work product to assess safety at the facility;
- Make recommendations to SoCalGas for repairs, improvements, policies and/or upgrades to the facility or infrastructure therein;
- Facilitate the role of, and work in cooperation with the Safety Ombudsman;
- In coordination with the Safety Ombudsman, conduct periodic safety audits or safety-related Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analyses of the facility; and
- Review CPUC and DOGGR audit reports of the facility
One of the duties of the Safety Ombudsman is to review and evaluate the gas leak monitoring data collected by SoCalGas for indications of a potential safety concern.
SoCalGas has created a website associated with the Aliso Canyon facility. The website can be accessed directly by clicking this link. Data associated with the fence-line methane monitoring system is posted on that website.
No. The Safety Ombudsman participates in quarterly meetings with the Aliso Canyon Well Storage Operations Committee (WSOC) and has access to non-privileged operating data associated with the facility. The Safety Ombudsman may make recommendations to the WSOC based on a review of the operating data, other information, or his observations, but does not direct any of the operations associated with Aliso Canyon facility.
The Safety Ombudsman is not supervised by any government agencies. However, the Safety Ombudsman is responsible for providing annual reports to the Attorney General’s office, the Los Angeles City Attorney, Los Angeles County Counsel, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources.
The Safety Ombudsman will annually prepare reports summarizing (1) the work of the Safety Ombudsman, (2) the work of the WSOC, and (3) recommendations, if any, for improvements related to safety and/or prevention of leaks at the facility. These reports will be published on the Safety Ombudsman’s website, generally during the second quarter of each year, and the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on them. In addition, at least once annually (generally during the third quarter of each year) the Safety Ombudsman will schedule a public meeting to explain and respond to questions relating to the annual reports. Lastly, questions, concerns, or complaints posted to the Safety Ombudsman’s website will be investigated and, generally speaking, responded to via that website.
Yes, there is an option on the Safety Ombudsman’s website to request anonymity. Once an issue, question, concern, or complaint has been investigated by the Safety Ombudsman, a response will be posted on the Safety Ombudsman website. However, if a question or issue is submitted under anonymity it will not be possible for the Safety Ombudsman to contact the person submitting the question to seek any necessary clarification or information. It is possible that in some instances the Safety Ombudsman may not be able to fully respond to an issue if the question or concern is vague or unclear. Thus, to help ensure your question is answered in full, it is best to provide your contact information if you feel comfortable doing so. See also the answer to FAQ 15, below.
No. Under no circumstances will anyone’s contact information be shared. Your contact information and identity will only be visible to the Safety Ombudsman and will not be shared with anyone or any external entity. The Safety Ombudsman will only contact you if additional information is needed to clarify your question or concern, and provide a more complete answer to your question or concern.
The length of time required to investigate and respond to an issue will vary depending on the complexity of the issue. The Safety Ombudsman’s role is to fully investigate issues. This may require the gathering of additional information from the individual who submitted the concern and/or from the WSOC or other groups within SoCalGas. Generally speaking, the Safety Ombudsman will endeavor to complete its investigations and provide a response to questions or concerns within 90 days of receipt of the question. It’s possible, in those instances where it’s necessary to contact the person who submitted the question to seek clarification, that a response may not be possible within 90 days. In any event, responses will be posted on the Safety Ombudsman website.
Yes. According to the Consent Decree, the Safety Ombudsman shall, among other things:
- Participate in all WSOC meetings;
- Have access to all non-privileged information, records, and work product in SoCalGas’ possession, custody, or control necessary to accomplish the tasks required of the Safety Ombudsman;
- Review CPUC and DOGGR audit reports of the facility;
- Review and evaluate all incidents reported to the public and the state and local agencies related to SoCalGas’ methane monitoring program;
- Review and advise on the WSOC’s efforts, findings, and recommendations for improvements;
- Serve as a non-exclusive repository for safety-related concerns reported by the public with respect to the facility;
- Serve as a point of contact to receive safety complaints or concerns relating to the facility from anyone who wishes to remain anonymous, and provide reports of safety concerns to SoCalGas;
- Maintain the confidentiality of the person making any confidentially-made safety complaints or concerns relating to the facility;
- Generate annual reports that detail the following:
- The work of the Safety Ombudsman;
- The work of the WSOC;
- Recommendations, if any, for improvements related to safety and prevention of leaks at the facility; and
- Provide annual reports to the Attorney General, the City Attorney, County Counsel, the CPUC, and DOGGR. The annual reports shall be made public via the Aliso Canyon Website, and the local community shall be provided with an opportunity to comment. The Safety Ombudsman shall schedule at least one public meeting each year wherein the Safety Ombudsman shall explain and respond to questions regarding the annual reports.