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Porter Ranch leak: DA Jackie Lacey says her criminal suit against SoCal Gas could yield faster results

by Take Two®

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Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey speaks during a news conference on Nov. 13, 2014, in Los Angeles. Jae C. Hong/AP

It has been a rough week for SoCal Gas — and it’s only Wednesday. On Tuesday, the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined a civil suit against SoCal Gas, while Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed a criminal suit against the utility company over the ongoing gas leak in Aliso Canyon.

While the attorney general's case may take longer to yield results, Take Two talked to District Attorney Jackie Lacey about her office’s criminal suit — which she said would reap results faster.

“This allows us to get into court fairly quickly, get some sanctions in place, put the corporation on probation and assist perhaps in getting some of the remedies that those who are suing civilly are seeking,” Lacey said. 

Natural gas has spewed into the air since late October 2015, creating environmental and health concerns for nearby communities like Porter Ranch. 

The District Attorney’s Office filed four charges against SoCal Gas. Lacey said the first three have to do with the company failing to immediately report the leak was happening. The fourth charge is for the continued gas leak.

"We believe that we can prove that this gas is interfering with the health and enjoyment of residents who are there,” Lacey said.

Lacey said that her office believes they can prove that the leak occurred three days before SoCal Gas reported it — a mistake which could bring up to $25,000 per day in fines.

SoCal Gas has set up a community resource center on Tampa Avenue near the entrance to their Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch.
SoCal Gas has set up a community resource center on Tampa Avenue near the entrance to their Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Criminal cases pertaining to the environment are not cases the District Attorney’s Office normally works on. Lacey said her office sees mostly run-of-the-mill street crime  or violent crime cases, so they took extra care to gather the facts that would build the case against SoCal Gas.

"We wanted to make absolutely sure before we filed the charges that we’d be able to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lacey said. "Now that we’re confident that we have that type of evidence and we’ve researched the law ... we decided that we had exclusive jurisdiction on these charges and that it was time to file them.”

Lacey also mentioned that she thinks cases brought against SoCal Gas pertaining to the Aliso Canyon gas leak will take place for many years to come.

This story has been updated.

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