Lawyers representing Save Porter Ranch, and hundreds of homeowners impacted by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE) massive gas well failure, want Gov. Jerry Brown to declare an immediate state of emergency to help Porter Ranch residents.
“SoCalGas has failed miserably to relocate families, address medical needs, or compensate them for their financial losses as a result of SoCalGas’ negligence,” said attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
“We have entire families experiencing severe health issues as a result of the leak. We now have evidence that shows that the noxious gas is harming family pets. The problem cannot be solved by local government alone. We need the entire state of California, including the state agencies and the governor’s office, to assist and support local officials who are on the forefront in dealing with this crisis.”
Said declaration would allow residents to seek emergency relief on mortgage payments and allow local authorities to obtain additional resources to help the over 3,500 families that are fleeing the disaster area as a result of this public health emergency.
Declaring a state of emergency provides local governments with the powers necessary to coordinate and implement plans aimed at protecting people and property during a disaster.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to formally declared a local emergency in response to the continuing gas leak. But, so far, there has been no state level action.
Attorney R. Rex Parris, whose Lancaster-based law firm is working on the case, said “it’s incomprehensible to us all” that no state of emergency has been declared.
“When we do get a response [from the Governor’s office], it’s not a response,” Parris said. “They’ve been consistent throughout this. We have learned that the Governor’s office is considering it. But while it goes on, what’s happening to the people is getting worse.”
Parris went on to say that the situation should not be categorized as a “leak,” but instead is “a well blowout that is uncontrollable at this point.” He said that one of the new, emerging problems affecting residents attempting to relocate is an accelerated cost of rentals.
“With the need to relocate, rental rates have just exploded. you have a lot of price gouging going on,” Parris said. “The Governor could put in price controls until it passes.
“And banks will not talk to residents about foregoing or suspending mortgage payments for the next the three months, so those relocating don’t have to pay their mortgage. [But] there has to be state of emergency.”
The gas leak was caused by, “an injection well failure and blowout…sending natural gas mixed with various other chemicals including benzene (a known carcinogen) hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and methane into the air and settling in the Porter Ranch community. Now, residents are breathing in toxic fumes that are making them sick,” Parris said.
He said the California Air Resources Board released a report estimating that natural gas at the Aliso Canyon storage facility is currently leaking at a rate of approximately 50,000 kilograms per hour. Other estimates suggest that this is 25 percent of all methane released in California.
“Nobody knows how ‘temporary’ this is because there has never been a base well blowout like this in a populated area,” Parris said. “It seems apparent to everybody gas company and state doing everything to minimize a very serious problem to everyone else.
In Porter Ranch, Parris said, SoCalGas admits there are outdoor air samples of hydrogen sulfide at levels of 183 ppb. This is more than six times the state standard for minor impacts that cause headaches and nausea, the complaint alleges.
— Mike Terry