SACRAMENTO, CA - There are 717 homes in a south Sacramento neighborhood sitting atop some valuable storage space.
A company called Sacramento Natural Gas Storage has offered property owners a minimum $500 annual lease payment to use the sandstone formations deep beneath their homes to store natural gas for SMUD and other utilities.
The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on the gas storage plan Thursday in San Francisco.
The company would pump 8 billion cubic feet of natural gas three-quarters of a mile under the neighborhood, roughly centered around 53rd Avenue and Power Inn Road.
It's not a new idea, it's just new to the neighborhood.
The company's proposal, first laid out in 2007, would actually replace the natural gas that was pumped out of the sandstone decades ago by Procter & Gamble and other commercial users.
The so-called Florin Gas Field was depleted by 1987.
While roughly three-quarters of the homeowners have signed a lease with the company, others are bitterly opposed to the gas storage plan.
"We're sitting on a ticking time bomb," Homeowner Nate Allen said. "This is a safety hazard for us."
Although the company said this neighborhood would be at no greater risk than a neighborhood sitting on top of a natural field; Sacramento Natural Gas Storage President Donald Russell acknowledged the natural gas pipeline explosion that wiped out a San Bruno neighborhood in September 2010 has made it difficult to get any new gas project approved.
"It's all public perception and fear," Russell said. "And the unfortunate part is this is one of the safest types of industries in this country."
That's why the company bent over backwards and chartered a bus Monday when one of the five PUC Commissioners, J.K. Sandoval, - the supposed swing vote - asked to see the proposed wellhead, pumps, and the neighborhood above the gas field just three days before the critical board meeting.
"When you're going to have people living near a gas storage facility, you just really have to do some extra scrutiny for safety," Sandoval said.
Sandoval said she had an open mind going into the tour.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net