Environment & Science

Los Angeles city attorney sues SoCal Gas over Porter Ranch leak

Porter Ranch residents hold a press conference after a regular Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Monday that he has filed a lawsuit against the Southern California Gas Company related to a leak at its natural gas storage facility.
Porter Ranch residents hold a press conference after a regular Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Monday that he has filed a lawsuit against the Southern California Gas Company related to a leak at its natural gas storage facility.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Monday that he has filed a lawsuit against the Southern California Gas Company related to a leak at its natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch.

The legal move comes a week after the R. Rex Parris Law Firm filed a class action lawsuit against SoCal Gas and its parent company, Sempra Energy.

Feuer's lawsuit seeks a court order that would make sure the leak is repaired as quickly as possible, to find out what caused it and to prevent a similar event in the future.

He also wants the utility to make sure that any systemic flaws at the Aliso Canyon storage facility and other facilities are addressed, and to impose penalties of $2,500 per day for each violation.

SoCal Gas "has been negligent in their responsibility to protect public health and safety with their operations and has caused real harm to their host community," Feuer said.

Residents have filed more than 700 complaints to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, saying the odor is causing severe headaches, nosebleeds and has prompted burning sensations in some people's lungs and noses. Hundreds of residents have evacuated the area.

In a written statement to KPCC, the Southern California Gas Company did not directly address the city's or the residents' allegations in the respective lawsuits. It reiterated past statements that it was trying to fix the leak andwas providing housing for those displaced. It also called estimates by the state Air Resources Board and other experts of the amounts of methane released “speculative.”

The company CEO apologized earlier this month, calling the leak "not one of our prouder moments."

Councilman Mitch Englander, who represents the area, said the company had no contingency plan for responding to such a leak. He called for any fines levied against the company by the Public Utilities Commission to be used for the benefit of Porter Ranch residents. Further, he wanted the company and its shareholders to foot the bill for stopping and fixing the leak rather than passing the cost to customers.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Englander both criticized the company’s lack of communications with the city and the public when the leak first broke out and its efforts to stem the leak failed.

Englander talked about the challenges facing a community vacated by hundreds of families.  He said some had pulled children from local schools while dealing with temporary relocations. Police were being asked to provide extra patrols to make sure homes were not broken into.

“There is no end in sight to the harm caused by this release,” Englander said, adding that he could smell the “intolerable foul odors” from the Aliso Canyon gas leak from his own home in Granada Hills, which is several miles away.

He called on the company to fund an independent study of the health effects of the leak on surrounding residents. He said the company had acquired a storefront office in the community at his request to interact with residents in person.

A spokeswoman from the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources says they inspected the well in October 2014 and found no problem.

The California Air Resources Board has estimated the leak is large enough to increase the state's output of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — by 25 percent.

Read a copy of Feuer's complaint:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2642653-Los-Angeles-lawsuit-vs-SoCal-Gas.html

Read the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of residents and the local environmental group Save Porter Ranch by attorney R. Rex Parris against the Southern California Gas Company:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2643297-Porter-Ranch-Gas-Leak-Complaint-Perris.html

This story has been updated