The Southern California Gas Company is now under a court order to quickly relocate residents and others affected by the gas leak in Porter Ranch that has been silently leaking harmful gasses into the air since October.
The Washington Post reports the runaway natural gas leak in the hills above Los Angeles is shaping up as a significant ecological disaster with more than 150 million pounds of methane pouring into the atmosphere so far, with no immediate end in sight.
The rupture, first detected more than two months ago, is venting gas at a rate of up to 110,000 pounds per hour, California officials confirmed.
“It is one of the biggest leaks we’ve ever seen reported,” said Tim O’Connor, California climate director for the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit group that obtained the video. “It is coming out with force, in incredible volumes. And it is absolutely uncontained.”
ABC 7 News reports, “Southern California Gas has agreed in a court order to expedite the relocation of individuals who seek relocation. There’s thousands of people waiting,” Chief Deputy City Attorney Jim Clark said.
SoCal Gas expects to finish drilling a relief well by February or March to stop the leak – meaning the leak will have gone on for six months before it can be stopped. In the meantime, the company has retained 17 relocation agencies that have relocated hundreds of families so far.
Ars Technica reports the leak at SoCal Gas’ Aliso Canyon site is northwest of Los Angeles and just adjacent to the Porter Ranch community. The Los Angeles County Department of Health and SoCal Gas have assured residents the leak poses no harm to human health.
However, the gas is highly flammable and has been treated with chemicals to give it a “rotten-eggs” smell. It is those chemicals that can cause headaches, nausea and nosebleeds. As such, SoCal Gas has relocated families to motels and offered to reimburse them for household air purifiers, per an agreement with Los Angeles officials.
Aside from the health concern is the environmental impact the leak will have on California. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) said methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is many times more harmful than CO2 with respect to climate change in the near-term.
DemocracyNow.org reports the natural gas leak above Los Angeles has emitted more than 150 million pounds of methane. The fumes have caused headaches and nosebleeds.
Renowned consumer advocate and legal researcher Erin Brockovich, who helped win the biggest class action lawsuit in American history, said the methane gas leak is the worst U.S. environmental disaster since the BP oil spill. She is now working to seek justice for victims of the Porter Ranch gas leak.
Brockovich spoke of a video released online. “The scope of it is enormous,” she said. “And there is another videotape there that really helps us see pollution, because I think we can’t see it, so therefore we don’t always think that it’s real. Watch the video.
“And it’s amazing,” Brockovich continued. “It looks like a volcano that’s just erupting, that won’t stop.”
Brockovich said if you fly over and have the right lense you can see that it’s “like a black plume of smoke through there that just continues to billow out. And the magnitude is enormous,” she said.
She added, “And it’s frightening for us to have a company like this, where you can’t get down there, and you’ve removed a valve, you didn’t replace that valve, and you now don’t have the ability to stop this for half a year or longer—is a bad scenario.”
Visit DemocracyNow.org for a complete transcript of the interview.
Attorneys who represent some of the affected families consider the agreement a win for their clients who, under the judge’s order, should be relocated within 24 to 72 hours. Some have already relocated while others are still waiting.
According to The Washington Post, “company officials believe the problem began when an underground well casing failed, allowing the pressurized gas to push through geological cracks to the surface near the community of Porter Ranch.”