Though it seems to be oddly absent from the mainstream media headlines, a massive methane gas leak in Southern California’s Aliso Canyon has prompted thousands of evacuations and, since Oct. 23, has pumped over 150 million pounds of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Even though the owners of the methane well, Southern California Gas Co., say this week that they have finally discovered the pipe associated with the leak, it will likely be months before a seal is entirely in place.
To truly underscore the seriousness of the Porter Ranch gas leak, the Environmental Defense Fund released an infrared aerial video this week showing the tremendous, continuous release of methane:
Methane gas, in its natural state, is also odorless. However, for safety reasons, foul-smelling additives are artificially included with the gas. In Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles neighborhood and the site of the leak, the additive smell’s intensity has affected the heath of many of residents — nose bleeds, nausea, headaches and dizzy spells have been reported.
Though no evacuation order has been put in place, at least 2,000 individuals have left the area for health reasons. Additionally, the Los Angeles Unified School District has already committed to relocating almost 1,900 students, as the gas fumes have disrupted attendance and students’ health in class in Porter Ranch.
In many respects, the Porter Ranch gas leak is comparable to the disastrous 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Much like Deepwater Horizon, the methane gas well’s owners, Southern California Gas Co., have been slow to identify and correctly assess the continuing crisis in Porter Ranch. Since the leak’s discovery, California has had to issue to emergency orders to the company to compel it to urgently solve the crisis. As with Deepwater Horizon, a solution was that was initially said to be achievable within days or weeks was soon revised to two or three months — and now they’re saying the job might not be finished until March.
However, the task of just finding where exactly on a 8,700-foot deep well the breach exists is no quick task — in fact, a crucial pipe which connects to the well was only discovered this week, buried at 3,800 feet. Still, the actual breach itself has yet to be pinpointed. Southern California Gas Co. says it could take until March to fully complete the process of drilling a relief well the full 8,700-foot length to connect with the leaking well in order to plug it permanently with cement.
Until then, Los Angeles County will continue to live under a state of emergency, as it has for the past two weeks. At the direction of local authorities, Southern California Gas Co. is footing the bill to temporarily house displaced Porter Ranch residents. But some officials are already realizing the wide scope of the effects of this disaster, seeking to have the county and state fund programs like business tax cuts, moving services for those seeking to relocate, medical expense reimbursements and private security to patrol vacated areas, among other proposals.
Reasonable though these types of initiatives are, the expenses to do these things will, presumably, come from L.A. County taxpayers — rather than Southern California Gas Co. They, however, have already been named in two lawsuits over the leak, including one from L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, in which the company is accused of failing to both report the breach promptly and to divulge the true extent of the leak, in terms of how much is being released and how far off a solution is. To their credit, the company — albeit, at the direction of government officials — is, at least, paying to temporarily house displaced residents. But how long will that deal be good?
If you believe Southern California Gas Co. needs to be held accountable for their actions before and during the Porter Ranch methane gas leak, please sign the petition here and make your voice heard!
photo creditPhoto Credit: Environmental Defense Fund / YouTube