Gas Leak Sends Large Amounts of Methane Billowing Into Los Angeles Air

Joel 2:30 "I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke.

An uncontrolled methane leak at a southern California storage facility is silently sending a devastatingly large amount of the gas into the air every day, an environmental group says.

The Environmental Defense Fund recently released an infrared video that shows gas billowing from an underground well at the Aliso Canyon storage facility near Los Angeles. The group says the leak has released 62 million cubic feet of methane into the environment every day since it initially began on Oct. 23, an extreme amount that could have significant climate implications.

For comparison, a federal report on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill indicates about 210 million gallons of oil, or some 28 million cubic feet, was released during the entire 87-day saga.

The extent of the leak concerns the Environmental Defense Fund for several reasons.

First, the organization says that methane is more harmful to the environment than other gases. It’s much better at trapping heat and has about 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.

Secondly, the extent of the pollution is very high. The Environmental Defense Fund says the gas spewing into the air has the same long-term effect as the daily emissions of 7 million cars.

Third, the leak has been going on for about two months and there is no immediate end in sight.

The Southern California Gas Company, which owns the Aliso Canyon facility, wrote a letter to those impacted by the leak saying that the capping process likely won’t be completed until late February or late March. The company wrote it has to drill a relief well more than a mile underground, and it will ultimately permanently seal the leak with a mix of fluids and cement.

In addition to long-range climate impacts, the leak is also disrupting the lives of residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood that’s just a few miles from the storage facility. The Environmental Defense Fund says more than 1,000 people have lodged complaints with local authorities about the pervasive smell of the gas. Odorants are often added to methane to help people detect leaks.

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department ordered the gas company to “offer free, temporary relocation” to anyone affected by the smell, according to an official department letter published by Save Porter Ranch, a group that aims to reduce industrialization in the region.

The Environmental Defense Fund says about 1,000 people have taken advantage of that, and another 2,500 are looking to relocate. On its website dedicated to the leak, the Southern California Gas Company wrote it is also offering a variety of air purification services to help abate the smell for those who don’t want to leave, though it maintains the air is safe to breathe.

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