LOS ANGELES — Save Porter Ranch, along with 24 individuals, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the State of California on behalf of the community of Porter Ranch.
Also named in the claim against the state are other agencies including the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The claim also lists SoCalGas, whose property in Aliso Canyon is treated as government property.
Each client is seeking damages for personal injury and property damage which is expected to exceed $3.5 Million per person.
According to the suit filed on Monday, April 19, Save Porter Ranch discovered public records showing the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) knew of leaking wells and yet DOGGR repeatedly issued permits to SoCalGas without the proper data showing gas would be confined underground.
One example is Well 32F, which had a patch installed in 1986, but SoCalGas removed the patch in 2010. Well 32F has not passed any mechanical integrity tests since 2010. As of today, 32F still does not pass any tests and is a significant risk to the health and safety of the community, the suit said.
This type of problem led to the EPA ordering DOGGR in 2011 to stop issuing injection well permits without the required data showing confinement of injected fluids underground, the suit said. But Before DOGGR could fix the problem, the suit said, Gov. Jerry Brown fired the two regulators trying to bring the state into compliance with the law.
The suit claims that Brown’s office did not want the focus on injection wells to focus on fracking, which under state law at the time would have required compliance with the injection well regulations.
Brown appointed new regulators and brought back old-timers who were asked to travel around the state to tell the community that fracking was not subject to injection well regulations and to unwind all corrections implemented by DOGGR to bring the state’s injection program into compliance with the law, the suit said.
Combined with the other claims filed by the Lancaster-based law firm R. Rex Parris and co-counsel, the last two waves of claims filed against the state bring the total up to 951 claims for individuals and potential class members and thousands more to follow.
They accuse the state of failing to protect the residents of Porter Ranch who suffered from the massive gas injection well blowout of well SS-25 in the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility. Natural gas, noxious odors, hazardous chemicals, and toxic pollutants rolled down the hillside into Porter Ranch and surrounding areas for over three months.
The blowout ultimately released 100,000 tons of natural gas.
“DOGGR needs to be held responsible for allowing the operation of a facility with a known history of injection wells leaking gas into this community,” Parris said.
The County Panel recently appointed Parris to the Los Angeles County advisory panel assisting a County Strike Team in assessing the conditions, regulatory compliance and potential public health risks from existing oil production activities.
“Gov. Brown had a duty to Californians to coordinate the State Emergency Plan … for the mitigation of the effects of any emergency in this state,” Parris said. “But instead, Gov. Brown went to Paris and boasted about California’s reduction of emissions. He was eerily silent about Porter Ranch in the midst of the blowout and evacuation of over 4,000 families.”
The latest suit also accuses Brown of a conflict of interest.
It said Brown is a defendant in another lawsuit arising from the same permitting issues present in this action which alleges he was engaged in a criminal enterprise with the oil and gas industry. The state issues injection well permits to all gas companies if they provide basic data showing the injected gas will remain in a confined area underground. This is a safety requirement that is mandated by federal law.
Brown, however, ordered state regulators in October of 2011 to stop requiring this basic data for permits of injection wells. And DOGGR then stopped requiring gas companies to provide data showing confinement of the injected gas, according to the suit.
It also said that Brown’s sister is on the board of directors of Sempra Energy (the parent company of SoCalGas). She received income of almost $200,000 each year for the last three years from Sempra and rights to Sempra stock worth another $409,945.