LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Assemblyman Mike Gatto, appointed chairman of the Utilities and Commerce Committee, said one of his first tasks is to open an inquiry into the methane gas leak near Porter Ranch.
Following his appointment on Tuesday, Dec. 29, Gatto, D-Glendale, said he plans to hold a public hearing in the Porter Ranch neighborhood to allow residents the ability to voice their concerns and demand answers about the leak.
The state Legislature’s involvement brings with it the ability to regulate utilities, subpoena records, hold public meetings and call witnesses who must give sworn testimony, Gatto said.
“We want to make sure … we get some answers, get some firm commitments” from the Southern California Gas Co., he said.
The Gas Co. has been working to stop the gas leak at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility since it was discovered on Oct. 23, a process that the utility has indicated could take until late February to late March to complete.
Residents have complained of nausea, nosebleeds, dizziness and headaches that they say are related to the leak.
As of last week, 2,174 households had been temporarily relocated and another 2,694 were in the process, according to the Gas Co.
According to Gatto, the gas leak has implications for residents throughout the state, with many homes built near or above gas lines.
“A lot of home owners are questioning whether this is something that could replicate itself again,” he said.
Gatto said the goal of the inquiry is to find out how the leak happened, when and how it can be stopped, and whether it could happen again and in other communities. He also wants a closer study into the age and condition of the gas infrastructure.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has joined other, mostly state agencies in monitoring and investigating the Gas Co., sending a letter on Dec. 18 to the company’s president, Dennis Arriola, requesting information from the company under the Clean Air Act.
Some groups estimate the leak is spewing 110,000 pounds of methane each hour, making up about a quarter of the state’s daily methane gas emissions, but Gas Co. officials have declined to give any official estimates.