Non-categorized event in USA on December 14 2015 02:06 PM (UTC).
It belched methane into the sky over Los Angeles for 16 weeks straight until it was finally plugged on February 11. Now, a new study has confirmed what many thought was the case, that the Aliso Canyon gas well blowout was the largest methane leak in U.S. history, releasing over 90,000 tonnes (100,000 tons) of gas into the air. So big was the leak that researchers thought their equipment was faulty when first sampling the site, until they realized that this was actually just a massive event. "The methane releases were extraordinarily high, the highest we've seen," explains Donald Blake, an atmospheric chemist from the University of California, Irvine, who coauthored the new paper published in Science. At its peak the well was leaking an astonishing 60 tonnes (66 tons) of methane per hour, creating the largest known human-caused source of methane in the entire U.S. The overall quantity of the gas being released doubled the methane emissions rate for Los Angeles while it was still flowing. The researchers conducted flights over the blowout to sample the gas leaking out of the well, as well as sampling the air near the local Porter Ranch residential area. In these regions, they found above average levels of "dangerous compounds" including benzene, toluene, and xylenes. "Some of the volatile organic compounds have been linked to health effects if exposure is long-term," says Blake. Over 11,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes after the blowout occurred, with many complaining of headaches, nose bleeds, and feeling nauseous. While carbon dioxide hangs around in the atmosphere for longer, trapping the heat from the Sun and driving climate change, methane is considered by some estimates to be 80 times more powerful at trapping this heat over a 20-year period. At the peak of its four-month run, the blowout was California's largest single source of greenhouse gas, equivalent to an extra half a million cars on the road, and despite it only being February it already looks like the state will miss its climate change targets for the year. The disaster has been compared to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in terms of its size and environmental impact. So far, it is estimated to have cost SoCalGas, who operates the well (the fourth largest natural gas storage facility in the U.S.), around $250 million, though this figure is expected to grow significantly as lawsuits filed by the families forced from their homes, and environmental fines from the government, are enacted. The researchers say that the event highlights the problem of unintended greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas storage and extraction, which is often not considered when looking at how environmentally friendly certain energy sources are. For example, while fracking might produce relatively "green" energy when compared to other fossil fuels, by itself, when taking in account the amount of methane released through extraction, some estimate it is as carbon intensive as other more traditional fossil fuels.
A blowout at a natural gas well that gushed uncontrollably for 16 weeks and drove thousands of residents from their Los Angeles homes was plugged on Thursday, a utility said. The leak is expected to cost Southern California Gas Co, a division of Sempra Energy, at least $250m, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. While the well still needs to be permanently sealed with cement and inspected by state regulators, the announcement marked the first time the leak has been under control since it was reported 23 October. "We have temporarily controlled the natural gas flow from the leaking well and begun the process of sealing the well and permanently stopping the leak," Jimmie Cho, a SoCalGas senior vice president, said in a statement. The $250m figure could climb much higher because it only accounts for costs of capping the well and relocating about 6,400 families. It does not include potential damages from more than two dozen lawsuits, penalties from government agencies and expenses to mitigate pollution. If the plug holds and all goes according to plan to seal the well, the upscale Porter Ranch community in the San Fernando Valley could begin to return to normalcy after schools were closed and about 6,000 families were uprooted as they complained of headaches, nausea, nosebleeds and other symptoms as an intermittent stench wafted through the area. Public health officials blamed their woes on an odorant added to gas so it can be detected and have said they don't expect long-term health impacts. Vicky Walker, who lives close to the facility, said the smell was particularly strong the past few nights but wasn't noticeable Thursday afternoon. She spent three to four nights a week in a hotel after developing a cough, but returned regularly to work from her home office. But she gained five pounds as she stayed inside as much as possible and stopped walking her dog.

"I want to get back to life as I knew it as soon as possible," Walker said. "And I hope property values don't suffer." The leak at the largest underground gas storage reservoir in the West was declared an emergency by the governor. At its peak, the leak was estimated to contribute about a quarter of the state's climate-altering methane emissions, leading some to call it the worst environmental disaster since the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While the gas was invisible, its impact could be seen in half-vacant subdivisions, two shuttered schools and on the faces of angry residents who packed public meetings and community forums and demanded the Aliso Canyon storage facility be shut down. Regulators will use high-tech equipment to survey the ruptured pipe for clues about what went wrong before cement is poured into the well to permanently cap it. Residents who voluntarily moved out will have at least a week to return to their homes after inspectors certify it is safe. SoCalGas has paid to relocate residents in hotels, apartments and houses. Hotel dwellers will have eight days to return home and those who moved to other accommodations can stay through the end of short-term leases they signed. Once the well is sealed, though, life for some may never return to normal. The incident has focused attention on the aging facility and the state is investigating the impact if it were shut down to figure out how southern California would replace a major source of energy. Some folks have said they don't want to move back, and many are concerned about what the incident has done to the value of their homes. The company is facing more than two dozen lawsuits, some of which seek class-action status.
As a result of the three-month natural gas leak near Porter Ranch, California on Friday ordered emergency inspections and monitoring for all gas wells throughout the state. In response to a declaration of emergency concerning a massive well leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility run by Southern California Gas Co., the California Department of Conservation instituted temporary regulations to beef up oversight of the state's oil and gas storage fields. The emergency regulations include multiple testing, inspection and monitoring of 12 gas storage fields across the Golden State, which have 322 active wells, including 84 at Aliso Canyon. "These regulations are in effect immediately, and require all gas storage companies to complete enhanced inspections and testing at every gas well in California," State Oil and Gas Supervisor Ken Harris said in a statement. "We intend to make these emergency regulations a permanent requirement in California and are committed to strong oversight measures that help ensure the health and safety and environmental protection of this state." The emergency regulations, effective for six months, follows criticism that lax oversight by regulators contributed to the gas leak north of Porter Ranch that has spewed at least nearly 88,000 metric tons of methane into the air since Oct. 23. The leak has drawn more than 2,100 air-related complaints, many from Porter Ranch area residents who complained that they and their pets have gotten sick from what health officials say are odor-detection agents in the gas. More than 4,400 households and students from two schools have been relocated by SoCalGas, which has spent more than $50 million to mitigate the three-month leak. Southern California Gas Co., which has been unable to stop the leak from its 8,600-foot deep well, says it expects to have it plugged by the end of the month. The Conservation Department emergency regulations for all wells, signed off by the state Office of Administrative Law, come in response to a Jan. 6 state of emergency for Porter Ranch declared by Gov. Jerry Brown. The new regulations were drafted on Jan. 15. The department intends to make them permanent, but new rules by state law require a public comment period that can take up to a year, a spokesman said. The emergency regulations, issued by the department's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, require gas storage operators to comply with six safety and reliability measures. They included daily inspection of gas storage well heads, using gas leak detection technology such as infrared imaging; ongoing verification of the mechanical integrity of all gas storage wells; and regular testing of all well safety valves. They also ordered gas companies to establish minimum and maximum pressure limits for each storage field; and to set up comprehensive risk management plans that includes evaluating potentially corroded pipes and equipment.
Los Angeles prosecutors filed criminal charges against the Southern California Gas company on Tuesday over a huge methane leak near the city that has forced thousands of residents from their homes since October. The four misdemeanor charges accuse SoCalGas, a division of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, of failing to report the release of hazardous materials following the underground pipeline rupture and discharging air contaminants. "While we recognize that neither the criminal charges nor the civil lawsuits will offer the residents of Los Angeles County a complete solution, it is important that Southern California Gas Co. be held responsible for its criminal actions," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a written statement. Lacey's move came on the same day that California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued Southern California Gas Co, accusing the utility of violating state health and safety laws by failing to promptly control the escaping gas and report the leak to authorities. The lawsuit also cites environmental damage caused by the uncontrolled release of 80,000 metric tons of methane, the prime component of natural gas and a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The leak stems from an underground pipeline rupture at the company's 3,600-acre (1,457-hectare) Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field. The largest such leak ever in California, at its height it accounted for a fourth of all methane emissions statewide. The lawsuit amends a civil complaint brought in December by the Los Angeles city attorney and later joined by Los Angeles County. It seeks civil penalties and court orders requiring the utility to immediately take all steps necessary to mitigate the leak, repair the damage and prevent future discharges. Several attempts to halt the methane release have failed, but the company said it hopes to plug the leak by the end of the month through a relief well. The company said in a statement it would "respond to the lawsuit through the judicial process." Last week, the South Coast Air Quality Management District filed a separate lawsuit against SoCal Gas seeking civil penalties of up to $250,000 a day for each of six pollution-related health and safety code violations. The methane fumes have sickened scores of people and prompted the relocation of more than 6,600 households from the Porter Ranch community at the edge of the crippled underground gas storage field. More than 20 private lawsuits have been filed on behalf of some of those residents.
County health officials said Wednesday they don't believe there will be any long-term effects from the methane gas leak in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles. The gas has been spewing from a well since October. The pool of people affected by the Porter Ranch gas leak is swelling. Officials have now doubled the impact zone, adding thousands who are eligible to relocate. Mark Morris is deciding whether to leave. "This is impacting the planet," said Morris. "This is bad what's going on up there. It needs to stop and it needs to be shut down." To stop the leak, the utility company, Southern California Gas, is drilling down 8,000 feet and using a relief well to intersect the leaking pipe and plug it up. Crews are being very careful, drilling just 20 feet a day. Still, SoCalGas announced they expect to have the leak plugged by the end of February. Congressman Ben Sherman said if the first relief well doesn't work, they will keep trying until the leak is plugged. "You got to keep trying to seal this until either the field is empty or the leak is plugged," said Congressman Ben Sherman. "If it just keeps leaking, it goes for a year." The Eng family of eight is living out of suitcases in a hotel. "The kids were experiencing nose bleeds and stomach aches. It was because of them that we actually decided to make the decision to move out and relocate out of Porter Ranch," Leslie Eng explained.
One Porter Ranch family had to put down their beloved Alaskan Eskimo dog after it became very ill in mid-November. Another lost all 20 of their brightly colored Koi fish after they started dying or disappearing from a backyard pond. Others in this affluent San Fernando Valley community have noticed fewer bird and wildlife sightings. While the causes are often difficult to pinpoint, some Porter Ranch residents fear such incidents could be related to the massive natural gas leak at Southern California Gas Co.'s nearby Aliso Canyon Storage Facility. Regardless, at least some concern may be warranted. Los Angeles County health officials are warning that certain animals may be more vulnerable to the leaking fumes. "Birds and fish may be more sensitive to some chemicals and gases, so (pet) birds should be kept indoors and outdoor fish ponds closely monitored," a Los Angeles County Public Health Department official said in an email Thursday. "Some gases can lead to changes in water pH which can be unhealthy for fish." The ongoing leak, which was detected on Oct. 23 and has been declared an emergency by Gov. Jerry Brown, has sickened residents, forced thousands from their homes and prompted students at two schools to relocate. The county health department's Veterinary Public Health program is working with residents, veterinarians and animal shelters to monitor the health of local pets. Porter Ranch residents should notify the program if they believe their pets have become ill after exposure to the gas smell or if they see dead birds or wildlife in their neighborhood, officials said. Like humans, dogs and cats may experience discomfort or other symptoms due to odors from the gas and thus pet outdoor exposure should be minimized when odors are persistent, county health officials said. Pets that appear seriously ill should be taken to a vet clinic. Christine Katz, whose Porter Ranch home is about a mile from the Aliso Canyon facility, said she was "heartbroken" after her Koi fish started to die at her home's backyard pond in early November. She saw two dead fish in the pond filter, and then another two about a week and a half later. The others stopped coming up to the surface. She believes they died and decomposed toward the bottom. "That was my enjoyment, my passion," said Katz, who has sued SoCalGas over family health concerns she believes are related to the leak, as a representative from the R. Rex Parris Law Firm listened in. "I would go and pick out many colors, patterns when they were small. I raised them to be beautiful fish."
Californians are increasingly worried about about the massive methane leak that's been spewing from a natural gas well near Porter Ranch, a community in the San Fernando Valley to the northwest of Los Angeles. Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an official state of emergency over the leak, which has driven thousands of residents from their homes. But worriers are not likely to be comforted by the findings of University of California, Davis scientist Stephen Conley, who flew over the site in an airplane specially-equipped to detect pollution. He found that the leaky well is releasing 1,200 tons of methane per day, which works out to 100,000 pounds per hour. "To put this into perspective, the leak effectively doubles the emission rate for the entire Los Angeles Basin," Conley said in a press release. "On a global scale, this is big." Conley flew in a plane that belongs to his private research flight company, Scientific Aviation. The aircraft contains a greenhouse gas analyzer that measures methane plumes in real time. It's also equipped with a differential GPS system provides precise wind readings, which is vital for quantifying sources of methane and other emissions. The California Energy Commission hired Conley to do the initial monitoring flights in November. He has continued to monitor the site, and his most recent fly-over was December 23. The leaking well, Standard Sesnon No. 25, is used to send natural gas from transmission lines down more than 8,500 feet below the ground at Southern California Gas's Aliso Canyon storage facility near Los Angeles. The leak contains mostly methane, a greenhouse gas that is many times more potent than carbon dioxide. Porter Ranch residents downwind from the methane leak have complained of headaches, nausea, dizziness and nosebleeds. New Scientist reports that the leaking gas also contains benzene, a known carcinogen, and mercaptans, which are believed to be causing headaches and nausea. In November, measurements showed benzene air concentrations were six times higher than safe levels, the magazine said. The Los Angeles Daily News reports that Southern California Gas has been digging in an effort to to plug the leak, but that the job may not be completed until March. The company reportedly has spent $50 million on measures to cope with the leak, including temporarily moving some residents and installing air purifiers in about 3,000 homes. The Environmental Defense Fund warns that there are 400 other natural gas storage facilities around the country, similar to the one near Porter Ranch. The Home Energy Efficiency Team has created this animation showing the scale of the leak.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over a large Southern California gas leak in Los Angeles County, which has led to months of protests and the displacement of thousands of families. Governor Brown made the declaration on Wednesday, which will make more resources available for dealing with the leak at Porter Ranch, which is within LA County. In the press release announcing the state of emergency, Brown's office said the order has come due to the "prolonged and continuing duration of the Aliso Canyon gas leak." The leak at the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon storage field, which began on October 23, has steadily leaked 62 million cubic feet of methane into the air daily, according to an estimate by the Environmental Defense Fund. The proclamation calls for the SoCal Gas to maximize the amount of natural gas being removed from the facility, capture leaks while relief wells are being built, and to identify how the company will stop the leak if relief wells don't seal the problem, or if the existing leak gets worse. Since the leak was first noticed by workers at Aliso Canyon, repeated attempts to fix the leak were unsuccessful, leaving gas billowing downhill into Porter Ranch, a commuter residential area. Governor Brown's proclamation calls for the gas company to stop the leak, protect public safety, ensure accountability and strengthen oversight of gas storage facilities. The proclamation also states that the California Public Utilities Commission will make sure SoCal Gas covers costs related to both the leak and its response, while protecting the company's own ratepayers. Governor Brown met with Porter Ranch residents and toured the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility earlier this week. In December, an LA city court ordered SoCal Gas to provide temporary housing for thousands of Porter Ranch residents sick from inhaling gas fumes from the leak for over two months. The court order was intended to provide relief to more than 2,500 families waiting to be relocated since October 23. The gas company had already paid for housing for more than 2,000 other households, according to the Los Angeles Times. There are an estimated 30,000 residents living in Porter Ranch. During the course of the leaks, thousands of complaints of headaches, nausea and nosebleeds were made to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. LA Weekly reported that the well was drilled in 1953 and was designed with a sub-surface safety valve over 8,000 feet underground. The valve broke and was removed in 1979 and never replaced. SoCal has said it will take until March for them to drill a relief well to resolve the problem and cap the current well.
The single biggest contributor to climate change in California is a blown-out natural gas well more than 8,700ft underground, state authorities and campaign groups said Monday. The broken well at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage site has released more than 77,000 metric tons of the powerful climate pollutant methane since the rupture was first detected on 23 October, according to a counter created by the Environmental Defense Fund. Methane is a fast-acting climate pollutant - more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. Experts believe the breach, which has forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents from the town of Porter Ranch, is the largest ever in the US. Locals have complained of headaches, sore throats, nosebleeds and nausea, caused by the rotten-egg smell of the odorant added to the gas to aid leak detection by SoCalGas, the utility that operates the natural gas storage site. About 1,000 people are suing the company. There are also concerns about the leak's effect on smog and ozone. The company said it was monitoring air quality. The leak is unlikely to be brought under control before late February - and even that timetable depends on work crews' success in locating and plugging a 7-inch pipe deep underground. Campaign groups said the release undercuts Barack Obama's efforts to slow the rate of global warming to avoid a tipping point and live up to US commitments to a historic climate accord agreed in Paris last month. Obama is expected to tout his climate agenda during his State of the Union address on 12 January - one of his last big moments remaining to promote a key presidential priority. Carbon dioxide is still the biggest driver of climate change. But because methane emissions are on the rise and exercise such a powerful effect in the short-term, they are a growing source of concern as governments try to avoid a climate tipping point. A byproduct of the oil and gas industry and agriculture, methane accounts for about a quarter of the world's warming. The release of methane from the ruptured well has now slowed considerably since its peak in late November, according to Carb. Back then, the climate impact was equivalent to the daily emissions from 7 million cars - or the equivalent of six coal-fired power plants, or three-quarters of the emissions from the state's entire oil refining industry, according to EDF.

But David Clegern, a spokesman for the agency, said the well remained a major source of climate pollution. "It is in California at this point the single largest source point of global warming," Clegern said. He also said it was to his knowledge the biggest such natural gas leak ever. "We haven't been able to see anything anywhere near this size." The Aliso Canyon well failure was widely seen as the climate equivalent of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The April 2010 blow-out of BP's well killed 11 and caused vast damage to fisheries and the environment in the three months it took to get under control. The Aliso Canyon leak is much less visible than BP's oil disaster, but Mark Brownstein, who heads the climate and energy program at EDF, said it is a serious threat. "For the planet it is a big deal because methane is a such a powerful greenhouse gas, and the huge amount of gas that is escaping," he said. The rupture at the Aliso Canyon facility has refocused attention on America's ageing and accident-prone oil and gas infrastructure. Many such leaks go undetected. The Environmental Protection Agency is due to issue much-anticipated rules to control methane emissions from the oil and gas industry later this year. Gina McCarthy, who heads the EPA, said on Monday that the rules could avoid up to 400,000 metric tons of methane by 2025. The Aliso Canyon storage site is one of the biggest such facilities in the country, and was originally built for the oil industry about 60 years ago. When the oil fields were exhausted, the well was repurposed as a storage site. R Rex Parris, who is suing the gas company on behalf of Porter Ranch residents, said the site should have been shut down long ago. He faulted the company for removing a blow-out preventer at the bottom of the well in 1979. "They deliberately took the brakes off the car and continued to drive it. That's the best metaphor I can come up with, he said. "They are saying it's an accident that they ran into somebody. I'm saying: 'no, it was inevitable'." A company spokeswoman said the well was in compliance with state regulations.
It was the middle of the night when Alexandra Ortiz first smelt the rotten-egg stench of leaking gas from the Aliso Canyon methane facility in the hills above her neighbourhood. "The whole house smelled of gas," Ms Ortiz, 34, said last week. "At the time, we didn't know about the facility or the leak, so we kept getting up to check the stove." Until it sprung a leak on 23 October, few residents of Porter Ranch, a community less than 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles, were aware of the vast natural gas facility on their doorsteps. The largest underground storage system on the US West Coast, it contains gas piped from as far away as Texas and the Midwest, serving 14 power plants and more than 20 million energy customers. Now it is the source of the largest recorded natural gas leak in California's history, expelling an estimated 110,000lbs of methane into the atmosphere every hour: about a quarter of the state's daily methane gas emissions. Its climate impact will be "humongous", said Tim O'Connor, California director for the Environmental Defence Fund's (EDF) oil and gas programme. "In terms of aggregate greenhouse gas emissions, it is far greater than the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster." More than two months since the leak was first discovered, the Southern California Gas Company, which operates the facility, has yet to plug it. When the wind dies, the methane - heavier than air - settles like an invisible fog over the surrounding area. Though the gas itself is odourless, it is injected with trace amounts of sulphurous chemicals to make its scent detectable. Experts insist that in their current quantities, those chemicals - known as mercaptans - pose few long-term medical risks, but residents have experienced headaches, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath. Ms Ortiz and her husband have a one-year-old daughter, and have discussed moving home to escape the fumes and their potential health effects. Natural gas is considered a cleaner energy source than other fossil fuels such as oil and coal, because burning it produces less greenhouse gas. But allow it to escape without burning, and methane can be up to 80 times more potent than CO2. The Aliso Canyon leak, environmentalists say, is generating emissions equivalent to six coal-fired power stations or seven million cars.

In a letter to California's Governor Jerry Brown in December, SoCalGas president Dennis Arriola said his company "recognised the impact this incident is having on the environment" and promised to work with state officials "to mitigate [the] environmental impacts". Having failed to stop the leak by more rudimentary means, the company is now drilling a relief well to the natural gas reservoir 8,500ft underground, from which it should be possible to seal it with heavy fluids, mud and concrete. SoCalGas says that it may take until late March to complete, five months after the initial leak. As of last week, almost 2,200 households close to Aliso Canyon had taken up a SoCalGas offer to fund their temporary relocation. Two local schools have been moved to a different neighbourhood for the remainder of the school year. Retired aerospace engineer Bill Debley has lived less than two miles from Aliso Canyon for two decades, and only became aware of the facility following the leak. "A lot of our neighbours have taken advantage of the temporary relocation," said Mr Debley, 74. "Some of them have experienced headaches, nausea, bloody noses. There's a lot of paranoia." Mr Debley was photographing the canyon using a camera modified to take infrared images last week. The methane leak has received increased attention since an aerial infrared video of the perpetually spouting gas plume was released by EDF on 20 December. The clip has since been viewed almost a million times on YouTube. Until the video and unlike an oil spill, this was an invisible environmental disaster. But now people have been able to see the devastating leak, not just smell it. "At first, the story was just about a small community smelling foul odours," said Mr O'Connor. "But now that people can see this volcano of man-made methane pollution, they can't help but pay attention." The clip is expected to raise awareness not only of the Aliso Canyon crisis, but also of the wider problem of methane gas pollution. A recent EDF report found more than 3,000 methane wells in Los Angeles alone. Almost 40 per cent of the pipes under SoCalGas jurisdiction are more than 50 years old - and in excess of 15 per cent of them are made from leak-prone materials.

SoCalGas said it always operates in compliance with public safety regulations. And before the leak, the company had submitted plans to the state's Public Utilities Commission for a $30m annual programme to upgrade its storage infrastructure. Matt Pakucko, president of the community group Save Porter Ranch, said: "The more we find out about how ancient and deteriorating this facility is - from the company's own documents - the more it becomes clear that this was almost inevitable." It is a problem repeated across the US. In California, which has some of the world's most ambitious emissions reduction plans, Mr O'Connor said he wants a review of natural gas regulations, to prevent and better manage any future methane leaks. Shortly before flying to Paris to attend the United Nations climate change conference in November, LA's mayor, Eric Garcetti, visited Porter Ranch to see - and smell - the leak. "This is an environmental disaster," he said, adding: "It makes you question the sustainability of a carbon-based power system."
More than 2,000 residents of the small town of Porter Ranch, California have been evacuated, reports CBS News, after a torrent of methane gas leaking from a nearby storage facility has inundated the town. "I can't work in here, I can't breathe in here sometimes," music producer Matt Pakucko, who works from his Porter Ranch home, told CBS. "When that wind blows off that hill, it comes down the fire place," said Pakucko. Since October, the gas has been spilling out of a former oil field-turned-storage site owned by Southern California Gas Company at the rate of 70,000 pounds per hour, CBS reports, equal to roughly a quarter of the state's methane emissions. Residents knew something was wrong when they kept getting sick. Headaches, nosebleeds, nausea and other issues were reported by the locals of this town located in the San Fernando Valley region northwest of Los Angeles. At times, they even smelled rotten eggs, some residents told CBS Los Angeles. The leak was confirmed when lawyers filmed the area using an infrared camera, which showed the gas as it hovered over Porter Ranch. Skies were clear at the time of the tests, they said, strengthening their claims. "The video looks like something out of a science fiction horror movie," Brian Panish, one of the lawyers who helped bring the issue to light, told NBC L.A. So far, more than 6,500 families have filed for help, CBS reports, but only 1,700 homes and two schools have been evacuated. The leak is expected to be fixed by March, CBS reports. To fix the problem, the gas company drilled a relief well nearby. Using magnetic technology, workers have located the leaking well more than 3,000 feet below ground. Now they have to drill another 5,000 feet, where they'll intersect the faulty well and pump it with mud, water and cement to stop the leak. "Once the leak is stopped we will be able to evaluate what caused the leak and we will be able to evaluate how much natural gas escaped," said So-Cal gas spokesman Mike Mizrahi. Residents received support from environmental activist Erin Brockovich, who lives just 20 miles southwest in Agoura Hills, the L.A. Daily News reported. She hosted a community meeting that was attended by more than 2,000 Porter Ranch residents who were looking for answers. "I feel compelled to be here and to help my neighbor," she said during the meeting. "I certainly understand your plight and that we all have so much in common." The meeting came just days after Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said he'd sue the Southern California Gas Company, CBS L.A. reported. He's seeking a judge's order for the gas company to quickly seal the leak that was first reported more than seven weeks ago, the report added. Feuer also wants the company to be fined for releasing a greenhouse gas into the air, which could damage the environment, in addition to sickening residents. But there's also a proposed class-action lawsuit against SoCal Gas from the citizen group Save Porter Ranch, which has stated Feuer's lawsuit wasn't harsh enough, CBS L.A. also reported. "They're being really nice," group president Pakucko told CBS L.A. "We have an environmental disaster here and they're tiptoeing nicely." In the meantime, the leak has made Pakucko so sick, he's had to move out, CBS reports. "It's a new way of life now. We can't live in our homes. I mean, how much worse does it get?"
The largest natural gas leak ever recorded is jeopardising health and causing evacuations for thousands of Southern California residents. Two months into it, scientists and engineers still can't figure out a way to contain the seeping gas. It is easily the worst environmental disaster since BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Tellingly, some experts who stopped that leak are working to contain this one. On October 23 the Southern California Gas Company discovered a leak in its natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch, a neighbourhood about 40km northwest from downtown Los Angeles. Experts don't know what caused it, but believe that a well casing failed deep below the surface. It will take at least several more months to find the source and repair the leak, which requires careful drilling far from the tank itself to avoid igniting the gas and causing an explosion. For two months the leak has been spewing natural gas into the atmosphere at up to 49,895kg per hour. Why is it such a big deal? Although natural gas is a better energy source than coal when it comes to emissions, in its raw form this is the same climate-destroying gas that 195 countries have been trying so hard to keep out of the atmosphere, according to a report by the Environmental Defence Fund, which is tracking the amount of gas leaked in real time: Methane - the main component of natural gas - is a powerful short-term climate forcer, with over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released. Methane is estimated to be leaking out of the Aliso Canyon site at a rate of about 62 million standard cubic feet, per day. That's the same short-term greenhouse gas impact as the emissions from 7 million cars. That's not just bad news for local residents, who are suffering from headaches and trouble breathing (two schools have been relocated for the 2016 semester), it's potentially devastating on a planetary scale. A spokesperson for California's Air Resources Board told Mashable the leak is dumping the equivalent of "eight or nine coal plants" worth of methane into our already fragile climate. The leak itself is invisible but new infrared video shows a jet of gas pluming into the foothills, which hopefully will bring some awareness to the issue. I admit, even as a Southern California resident I didn't understand the gravity of the situation. Let's hope that not only the leak can be repaired soon but that the state takes swift action to ensure the safe storage and transportation of natural gas in the future. Or better yet, switch the state to entirely renewable energy sources, quick.
A court ordered SoCal Gas Company to provide temporary housing for thousands of Porter Ranch, Los Angeles, residents made sick from fumes from a massive gas leak. An infrared camera captured the size of the gas plume that's been leaking for two months. The court order issued on Wednesday will come as a relief to more than 2,500 families in Porter Ranch, a northwest San Fernando Valley community, who have been waiting to be relocated by SoCal Gas since the leak began spewing methane into their homes and schools on October 23. As of Tuesday, the company had paid for temporary housing for more than 2,000 other households, according to the Los Angeles Times. There are 30,000 residents who live in Porter Ranch, an upscale bedroom community of gated developments where the average 4,000-square-foot home is sold for $1 million. Judge Emilie Elias directed the gas company to relocate the remaining residents within 24 to 72 hours. The court order follows a restraining order sought by the Los Angeles city attorney that would have required the company to relocate residents within 48 hours of their request, and called for a "special master" to oversee the moves. The gas company is having increasing difficulty finding alternative housing nearby, because most of the available hotel, motel rooms and rental homes have already been snapped up by relocated Porter Ranch families. The shortage is also sending home rental prices as high as $8,500 a month as landlords, who prefer leases of a year or longer, seek compensation for renting properties for much shorter terms than the three to four months SoCalGas said it needs to cap the damaged well.

New aerial footage of the leak was also released on Wednesday by the Environmental Defense Fund, which captured the intensity of the leak by infrared camera. The video footage shows a steady, thick plume pouring into the air over a densely packed residential area. It is hard to judge the width of the plume from the video, but EDF said it is pumping out 62 million cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere each day. Methane packs 80 times the 20-year warming power of carbon dioxide. "What you can't see is easy to ignore. That's why communities that suffer from pollution from oil and gas development are often dismissed by industry and regulators," said Earthworks spokesman Alan Septoff in a statement. "Making invisible pollution visible shows the world what people in Porter Ranch have been living with every day for months." Trouble began at SoCal gas' Aliso Canyon, a gas storage field, on October 23, when gas company employees noticed a leak out of the ground near a well called SS-25. Efforts to fix the leak were unsuccessful as gas billowed downhill into Porter Ranch, and customers a mile away began to complain about the smell. Since then, thousands of complaints of headaches, nausea and nosebleeds have been made to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. LA Weekly reported that the well was drilled in 1953 and was designed with a sub-surface safety valve 8,451 feet underground. That valve broke and was removed in 1979, but was never replaced. The company says it will take until March for them to drill a relief well to resolve the problem and cap the current well. "I hate seeing SoCalGas' pollution billowing over my home and community. Knowing this gas leak has been polluting us since October and won't stop until March, if then, makes it clear there's only one way to keep us healthy and safe now and in the future," said Matt Pakucko, president of Save Porter Ranch in a statement. "[California] Governor [Jerry] Brown needs to shut down the Aliso Canyon facility."

The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that the LA city attorney sued SoCalGas, alleging that the utility failed to prevent the leak and then exacerbated "the effects of that failure by allowing the acute odor and health problems faced by the community to persist for more than one month, to say nothing about the indefinite time it will persist into the future," according to court papers. Gas officials could be deposed in that case as soon as January 7, according to the city attorney. The city wants to determine the cause of the leak, the amount of gas released, and the effectiveness of the air infiltration systems being provided by the company, the newspaper reported. "Events of this size are rare, but major leakage across the oil and gas supply chain is not. There are plenty of mini-Aliso Canyons that add up to a big climate problem - not just in California, but across the country," said Tim O'Connor, director of Environmental Defense Fund's California Oil and Gas Program in a statement. "Regardless of what the future holds for the Aliso Canyon storage field, this is one reason why strong rules are needed to require that oil and gas companies closely monitor for and manage methane leaks."