Governor declares massive Southern California methane leak an emergency

Acts 2:19 And I will show wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.

A massive gas leak that environmental activists say is sending potentially devastating amounts of methane into the air above Los Angeles was declared an emergency situation on Wednesday.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. made the announcement in a news release, outlining a variety of steps designed to protect public health, stop the leak and prevent future ones from occurring.

Methane has been leaking from the Aliso Canyon storage facility since Oct. 23. The Southern California Gas Company that owns the facility has been working to stop the leak ever since, though letters that appear on the company’s website indicate that workers don’t expect to seal the leak until late February or late March as it involves drilling some 8,000 feet underground.

Last month, Brown’s office released a letter he wrote to the company’s chief executive officer in which the governor called the response “insufficient.” The emergency declared Monday directs the Southern California Gas Company to take “all necessary and viable actions” to stop the leak.

The governor’s declaration came two weeks after the Environmental Defense Fund released an infrared video in which methane could be seen billowing from the facility at a purported rate of 62 million cubic feet every day. Approximately 28 million cubic feet of oil was released during the entire 87-day Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, according to a U.S. Coast Guard report.

The governor’s order instructs the company to ensure it’s withdrawing as much gas as possible from the facility so that it doesn’t escape into the air, captures whatever methane is leaking, and comes up with a plan to stop the leak if the company’s current plan of drilling a relief well and pumping it full of cement and other fluids doesn’t fix the problem or the leak gets worse.

The Environmental Defense Fund said the leak at its current rate had the same long-term impact on climate change as driving 7 million cars, as methane is much better at trapping heat.

The leak also had short-term impacts, as the governor’s office said Wednesday that “thousands of people” have relocated because of the leak. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department had previously ordered the company to relocate residents who were affected by the leak free of charge. The Los Angeles Unified School District also temporarily closed two schools near the leak after “an increasing number of health complaints” was disrupting the education process, according to the district’s website. Those students are being relocated to other schools.

Tests conducted by the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment shows the leak “does not appear” to present a toxic threat to the public, according to the California Office of Emergency Services (CALOES), though the smell of the gas has caused nausea and headaches. Odorants are added to methane to help the public detect leaks. Those odors, while they may not be toxic, could still lead to “lasting health impacts” like eye or respiratory damage, CALOES said.

The governor’s order directs the state to convene a panel of medical experts to look into concerns about public health. It also instructs the state’s Public Utilities Commission to make sure that the Southern California Gas Company pays for the costs of the leak, and outlines more strict practices for gas storage facilities, including daily wellhead inspections to help detect leaks.

Southern California Gas Company CEO Dennis Arriola issued a statement after the declaration, saying the company would continue to work to stop the leak and lessen the gas’s impact on the neighborhood of Porter Ranch, which has been hit particularly hard by the smell, and the air.

“Our focus remains on quickly and safely stopping the leak and minimizing the impact to our neighbors in Porter Ranch,” Arriola said. “SoCalGas reaffirms our prior commitment to mitigate the environmental impact of the actual amount of natural gas released from the leak. We look forward to working with state officials to develop a framework that will achieve this goal.”

One thought on “Governor declares massive Southern California methane leak an emergency

  1. Please watch the youtube videos on this methane gas leak. They show that the leaks are all located near reacting operations. On today’s show Jim asked rick who led, Why do you think the cities are going to be on fire? I realized, that this methane leak can be one reason why.

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