Gov. Brown declares state of emergency in Porter Ranch area over continuing gas leak

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday in the Porter Ranch area due to the continuing leak of natural gas from the Aliso Canyon storage facility.

The order comes two days after Brown met with a handful of residents in the Porter Ranch area, toured the storage facility and a relief well and was briefed onsite by a supervisor from the Division of Oil, Gas & GeoThermal Resources.

Brown's emergency proclamation orders that all viable actions be taken to stop the leak, withdraw natural gas from the facility and develop contingency plans in case a relief well being dug at the site fails to cap the leaking gas.

The order also includes mandates to step up oversight of gas storage facilities across the state, including a requirement for daily inspection of well heads, regular testing of safety valves, establishment of minimum and maximum pressure limits for storage facilities and "ongoing verification of the mechanical integrity of all gas storage wells.''

Brown noted in the order that seven state agencies are either actively investigating the leak or involved monitoring and remediation efforts.

"Many residents in the nearby community have reported adverse physical symptoms as a result of the natural gas leak, and the continuing emissions from this leak have resulted in the relocation of thousands of people, including many schoolchildren,'' according to the proclamation.

It also notes that "major amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, have been emitted into the atmosphere.''

More than 2,000 residents have been temporarily relocated out of the Porter Ranch area by Southern California Gas Co., and more than double that amount have applied to move in response to the leak that was discovered Oct. 23.

"SoCalGas has been communicating with the governor's office and other state agencies from the outset and appreciate their continued support as we work as quickly and safely as possible to stop the leak,'' according to SoCalGas President/CEO Dennis Arriola. "Our focus remains on quickly and safety stopping the leak and minimizing the impact to our neighbors in Porter Ranch. 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.''

Gas Co. officials have said it could take until late March to fix the leak. Workers are drilling a relief well that will allow them to pump heavy fluids and mud into the ground to stop the leak.

As part of his emergency declaration, Brown called on the California Public Utilities Commission to ``ensure that Southern California Gas Co. cover costs related to the natural gas leak and its response, while protecting ratepayers.'' He also ordered the state Air Resources Board to "develop a program to fully mitigate the leak's emissions of methane by March 31, 2016.

This mitigation program shall be funded by the Southern California Gas Co., be limited to projects in California and prioritize projects that reduce short-lived climate pollutants.''

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, hailed the governor's declaration.

"By declaring a state of emergency, the governor will now have the authority to direct SoCalGas to extract as much gas from the well as possible, and not limit that extraction based on how much SoCalGas can sell,'' Sherman said. "The more gas extracted and incinerated, the less gas will leak into the environment and sicken residents.''

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Porter Ranch residents "have been suffering too long in the shadow of the ongoing environmental disaster in Aliso Canyon, and the city of Los Angeles has done everything in its power to help residents cope with its effects.''

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