State attorney general joins city-county lawsuit against SoCal Gas in Porter Ranch gas leak

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The pile-on of lawsuits against Southern California Gas Company for its natural gas leak near Porter Ranch continued Tuesday as California Attorney General Kamala Harris added her allegations of negligence and damage.

The lawsuit alleges the agency violated state health and safety laws related to the Porter Ranch gas leak. It becomes a part of the joint action by L.A. city, L.A. County and the state Air Resources Board against the gas company. 

“The impact of this unprecedented gas leak is devastating to families in our state, our environment, and our efforts to combat global warming. Southern California Gas Company must be held accountable,” wrote Attorney General Harris in a press release. 

The lawsuit cites the uncontrolled release of more than 80,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere. It says this poses an environmental threat to California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"SoCalGas is working hard to both stop the leak and to address our neighbors’ concerns," the company said in a statement. "The company will respond to the lawsuit through the judicial process."

Southern California Gas Company operates the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility where a ruptured well has been belching large quantities of natural gas into the atmosphere since Oct. 23.

The natural gas — mostly methane mixed with a bad-smelling chemical called mercaptans — has prompted more than 4,500 households and two public schools to relocate outside the Porter Ranch area where the smell has been most strongly present.

The lawsuit says SoCal Gas failed to report the leak promptly to all appropriate government agencies. While the leak began Oct. 23, reports to the Office of Emergency Services were not made until Oct. 26. The lawsuit calls for the company to pay fines to the state. 

SoCal Gas expects to plug the leak by the end of February. When it does seal the natural gas storage well, the company will have to shut the well down permanently, California regulators say.

KPCC reported on Monday that the heads of three California energy agencies — California Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Independent System Operator — are concerned Los Angeles could run short of the natural gas it needs to generate power over the coming hot summer months if the massive underground gas field is shut down. 

You can see the lawsuit below. 

This story has been updated.

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