Now that the Porter Ranch gas leak has been temporarily stopped there will be renewed pressure to shut down the entire storage area of 115 wells. Local and state officials are walking a tight rope between the demand made by some environmentalists and residents who suffered from the leak to close the entire storage facility and the consequences of closing a major energy reserve.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, whose district encompasses Porter Ranch, confronted the tricky question of shutting down the facility at one of the many citizen meetings he set up in the community. Englander said he believed in the “Shut It All Down” theme, but he asked the follow-up question: “Then what?”

It’s an appropriate query. While guaranteeing the safety of the Porter Ranch and neighboring communities is paramount, officials also have to be concerned about Southern California’s energy needs.

Englander said that Porter Ranch residents had to face “a reality check, part of which we are not comfortable with. This facility supplies 22 million customers in 11 different counties. This is beyond an umbilical cord.”

An abandoned oil field, underground caverns were turned into a natural gas storage reserve in the 1970s. It is the largest gas storage facility in the western United States with a capacity for 86 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

While Englander said he was not sold on the idea that the gas storage could not relocate, he acknowledged the difficulty of finding a location for one of the largest gas reserves in the nation. The Aliso Canyon facility supplies gas to not only millions of residents, but to businesses, manufacturers and non-profit institutions such as hospitals and universities.

The result of a shut down could mean higher energy bills, fewer energy supplies and increased business costs.

There have been some legislators calling for a moratorium on the use of the facility that would run years.

When Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon visited Porter Ranch to say the senate would introduce legislation dealing with the Porter Ranch crisis, he was more circumspect about dealing with the facility. He said that the leaking well should be shut down permanently, but how to deal with other wells should wait the results of inspection before any decisions were made.

A timetable for completing the inspection has not been established.

For now, officials are demanding that all the wells be inspected and guarantees for the community’s safety be assured. That’s common sense and the easiest call. The more difficult decision for politicians will come if the local citizenry insists on closing the reserve while millions of others in Southern California watch and wonder how a “Shut It All Down” decision would affect them.