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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Los Angeles Suburb Still Suffering From Gas Leak

SoCal Gas spokesman MikeMizrahi meets with journalists outside the SoCal Gas Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch, California on January 8, 2016, where residents have been lodging complaints and seeking an alternative housing situation from their homes near where natural gas leaking from a well has sickened and displaced thousands of residents. More than 1,600 odor complaints have been lodged with the air district by Porter Ranch residents since October 23, 2015 when the leak began. Repeated efforts to stop the leak by pumping liquid and mud down the well have failed and the gas company is now drilling a relief well to intercept and plug the damaged well. (Frederic J. Brown//AFP/Getty Images)

SoCal Gas spokesman Mike Mizrahi meets with journalists outside the SoCal Gas Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch, California on January 8, 2016, where residents have been lodging complaints and seeking an alternative housing situation from their homes near where natural gas has been leaking from a well. (Frederic J. Brown//AFP/Getty Images)

More than three months have gone by and natural gas is still leaking at Aliso Canyon, affecting the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles.

California Governor Jerry Brown has issued a state of emergency and is calling for emergency rules, infrared cameras for inspection and emergency shut-off valves.

California State Senator Fran Pavley, who represents Porter Ranch community, joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to discuss the new legislation she has introduced, which calls for no more injections of natural gas into the storage facilities.

Interview Highlights: Fran Pavley

On legislation to stop injections into the natural gas storage facility.

“We put the brakes on that a few months ago, around early December. The good news is that it has reduced the pressure in the reservoirs, estimated at around 50 to 60 percent reduction of methane. We would also bar the use of the old 1950s era wells at the site. This particular well casing that has cracked is dated back to 1953. There are several dozen more that are pumping gas out of the reservoir. That’s part of the moratorium as well, we are trying to stop pressure from coming in, but we’re looking at those older wells that perhaps have expired. We’re trying to make sure, between our Public Utilities Commission and our Division of Oil and Gas that these wells are either phased out, and if they cannot be safe then they cannot be used.”

What other questions do you have?

“I’ve met with the people in charge of the Division of Oil and Gas, and they admit that they were 1978 regulations; very outdated. They didn’t take into consideration the distance from homes and schools in regards to leaks and methane emissions. The restrictions only required a distance of 300 feet, and the well that is leaking is a mile away from homes but that distance is still not enough.”

What are some of your constituents struggling with?

“We have nearly 3,000 homes where families have been uprooted, living in hotels or renting homes. Southern California Gas is footing the bill and not the ratepayers. If you have children and you’re not going to your local school, but one seven miles away, it’s a problem and it’s putting stress on families. We’re finding that methane emissions with mercaptan may be impacting family pets. For a week or two people can live with this disruption. This has been going on since October 23rd and families that are staying there are assessing whether they are making the right decision because no one’s really tested adequately, because no one has been exposed like this, so part of this legislation we have introduced is looking at not only short term impacts of mercaptan and methane gas, but also long term impacts and having an independent study that will look at that, not just for the months ahead but also for the years ahead.”

Should there be a national response to this incident and the one in Flint?

“It’s a wake-up call to all of our state agencies and I think all over the country we have problems with, what I would call, incompatible land use. Should thousands of people be living next to producing oil and gas fields with the potential for problems? We have to look at how we supply energy. I wouldn’t put everything off on the federal government. Locals and zoning is a part of it and the state certainly has a role on the ground, but so does the federal government. We are having a problem in California, which I assume is happening around the country, being deferred maintenance. We’re seeing it all over the country and we are not putting aside the resources to maintain and replace aging infrastructure. I’d say all levels of government are involved and should be.”


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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