State of Emergency for CA Gas Leak

Thursday, December 17, 2015 @ 10:12 AM gHale

Over 1,200 tons of methane leaked from a Southern California gas company which resulted in a declaration of a state of emergency in Los Angeles County.

The Southern California Gas Co. well site above Porter Ranch leaked 1,200 tons of methane into the atmosphere, officials said. The county’s move, approved unanimously, allows for state and federal assistance.

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“This action will seek state and federal assistance for our residents in the Porter Ranch area with additional air monitoring and help with efforts to cap the well,” said Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who proposed the state of emergency. “The residents … have suffered for more than 50 days since the gas leak was discovered.”

The supervisor noted 88 air purifiers ended up installed in the community and 275 are on schedule for installation in the area.

“While the gas company is working to address the leak, we still do not have a clear timeline as to when this crisis will be resolved. While county agencies have been monitoring the gas leak to assess the public health threat, we have called on the governor and state agencies including the Public Utilities Commission and the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources for assistance,” Antonovich said.

Officials said the leak remains complicated because of a break in the well casing containing the gas pipe.

“What the breach looks like is more art than science, so there is a lot we don’t know about the details of the breach,” said Steve Bohlen, the outgoing head of the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). “This is a serious well leak and it deserves all the attention it is getting, but it is not an uncontrollable situation.”

The gas company also is trying to capture some of the escaping gas and put it into its distribution system and has complied with the state’s request to begin work on a secondary relief well site, Bohlen said.

The agency said the gas company already has agreed to the requirements of the new expanded order.

Javier Mendoza, a gas company spokesman, said in a statement the company has been working with the state agency since the day they confirmed the gas leak. The emergency order “covers important aspects of our operations as we progress through the relief well phase. We have been and will continue to fully comply with (the) order.”

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, officials said the leaking well has been emanating noxious gas for more than six weeks, sickening residents.