PORTER RANCH (CNS) — Despite a threat of possible legal action by Los Angeles County, Southern California Gas Co. officials were holding firm Wednesday, Feb. 24, on the eight-day deadline for residents temporarily displaced by the Porter Ranch gas leak to return to their homes.
State officials announced on Feb. 18 that the leak, which was first detected Oct. 23, had been officially capped. That announcement began an eight-day clock for residents who have been living in temporary housing at Gas Co. expense to return to their homes.
SoCalGas will not pay for the temporary housing beyond the eight-day deadline, which is today, Feb.25.
Residents living in temporary housing with extended leases will have until those leases expire to move back to their homes.
Los Angeles County officials, however, have been pushing for the deadline to be extended to 30 days, saying it would provide more time to ensure the air is clear and give residents more time to relocate. The Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the Gas Co. on Feb. 10, requesting the 30-day time period.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the board authorized its attorneys to go to court and seek a temporary restraining order if the Gas Co. refuses the request.
“The county Department of Public Health has determined that now that the well is sealed and the emissions have ceased, the time needed for a comprehensive evaluation of the air monitoring results and home testing is at least 30 days,” Supervisor Mike Antonovich said. “An eight-day limit established by the city of Los Angeles and the Gas Company victimizes the victims once again.”
The Gas Co. had originally reached an agreement with the City Attorney’s Office calling for a 48-hour deadline for residents to return. That agreement was amended earlier this month to provide for an eight-day, seven-night window for residents to move back home.
SoCalGas officials said Wednesday they have no intention of extending the deadline.
“City, county and state air quality authorities have consistently reported that the leak posed no long-term health risk, and any short-term symptoms should have gone away when the leak was stopped two weeks ago,” according to a statement from the company. “Based on discussions with the L.A. City Attorney’s Office, as well as health analysis from all relevant regulatory experts, it’s clear there is no health and safety benefit to extending the time beyond what we and the City Attorney’s Office have agreed upon.”
According to the company, the eight-day window “takes into account feedback from those who decided to temporarily relocate, as well as collaborative input from the Community Advisory Committee and city, county and state officials, including the L.A. County Department of Public Health. The plan is responsive to the needs of the community and affords the flexibility to make the transition back home as smooth as possible for those who decided to relocate.”
Gas Co. officials said that so far, 2,081 households have already checked out of their temporary housing. It was unclear how many households remained. As of mid-February, more than 4,600 households were in temporary homes, according to SoCalGas.