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Oil And Gas Agency Says Better Regulations Could Have Prevented Aliso Canyon

Dean Musgrove / Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool

Crews from SoCalGas and outside experts work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon facility above the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 9. 2015.

Dean Musgrove / Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool

California oil and gas regulators say gaps in regulations, from years of dysfunction, helped allow the Aliso Canyon gas leak in Southern California.

The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has been criticized by environmental groups, the EPA and its own staff. An October self-audit found a pattern of lax oversight and shoddy and incomplete paperwork.

Recent directors of the division have emphasized reforms.

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, Department of Conservation director David Bunn said the rules governing gas storage wells had gaps.

"Unfortunately the Aliso Canyon gas leak occurred before we improved these new measures and strengthened the law in regards to well construction, monitoring and testing," Bunn said.

The methane leak from a broken well began in October and wasn’t sealed until February. A study in the journal Science found it was the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history.

During the leak, the state implemented emergency regulations that currently require more testing at gas storage sites.

The oil and gas division is undergoing a broad reorganization, which is scheduled to take three years.