Porter Ranch residents try intervening in gas leak plea deal

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Complaining that their rights as victims of a massive natural gas leak were ignored, Porter Ranch residents are asking to intervene in a $4 million plea deal that Southern California Gas Company reached with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Attorney R. Rex Parris said the deal shortchanged residents because prosecutors did not consult the residents about their rights to restitution under the state constitution.    

"The victims of any crime are entitled to full restitution and it must be part of any plea deal, and for whatever reason, we were left out of it," Parris said.    

In a petition filed Tuesday, the residents ask the court to hold a hearing to modify the plea deal to pay restitution to thousands of Porter Ranch residents. The plea agreement goes before a superior court judge on Nov. 29.
    
Representatives for the DA and SoCal Gas said they had not had an opportunity to review the petition and declined to comment.
    
The Sept. 13 plea agreement with L.A. County prosecutors was drafted to resolve a four-count criminal indictment brought in February stemming from the massive gas leak near Porter Ranch. The leak was discovered Oct. 23 and plugged Feb. 12, and is considered to be the largest uncontrolled release of natural gas from a storage field in the nation's history.
    
The company pleaded no contest to the first count, which said it failed to notify the proper government offices of the gas leak for three days. It agreed to pay penalties and perform upgrades at the Aliso Canyon gas storage field totaling about $4 million.
    
Three other counts were dismissed, including one that accused the company of polluting the area with gas emissions. Restitution for that count could be far greater than $4 million, Parris said.

 

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