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A Proposed Commercial Gas Moratorium Could Spell Disaster For LA’s New Restaurants

Aliso Canyon’s natural gas leak could halt restaurant openings until April

2016 Los Angeles Times
Porter Ranch residents protesting the Aliso Canyon gas leak
Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

A startling new proposed moratorium on commercial natural gas customer connections could leave dozens of upcoming Los Angeles restaurants — including many backed by some of the nation’s most well-known chefs and restaurateurs — without the possibility of opening until well into spring.

The Los Angeles Daily News has been covering the process for weeks now, after first hearing about a proposal to halt all new industrial and commercial natural gas lines back in mid-December. That plan was put forward by the California Public Utilities Commission as a way to mitigate potential natural gas shortfalls for existing customers, and it (mostly) all stems back to the terrible 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak that prompted massive evacuations of neighborhoods like Porter Ranch.

Ever since then, Aliso Canyon has not been operating at its maximum capacity as a primary site for natural gas cultivation for greater Los Angeles. SoCalGas has also been hit with a few downed pipelines across its natural gas network, meaning a constriction of available sources during the colder winter months. One way to make sure existing customers are able to receive the gas they’re already hooked up for and have been previously receiving, says the California Public Utilities Council, is to stop new commercial tenants from coming online until April 1.

In essence, a moratorium would mean that no new, currently unconnected restaurants in Los Angeles County would be able to open for months. Any projects under construction could continue, but would not receive natural gas for their kitchens until the moratorium was lifted after the peak winter usage season.

Of course, not everyone is taking this proposal lightly. Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter to the Commission urging them to reconsider the possible moratorium, says LA Daily News, arguing that LA’s mild winter isn’t driving up gas usage at all. What’s more:

If the commission adopts the moratorium, there will likely be significant harm to individual businesses. This is because these businesses will not be able to start operations as a result of the resolution being adopted. This would of course impact their workers and the local economy.

What’s more, some businesses have even taken up a petition to urge the Commission to drop plans for a possible moratorium. As of now, the whole thing is going up for a vote in January. Eater reached out directly to the California Public Utilities Council regarding the upcoming vote and proposed moratorium, but so far hasn’t heard back.