The gas leak in Porter Ranch, California that has been pumping tens of thousands of kilograms of methane into the air every hour since October 23 may take months to close up, according to state officials.
Thousands of residents in the San Fernando Valley community, roughly 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, have been forced to relocate due to health problems caused by the fumes—including, in some cases, bleeding eyes and gums.
However, officials recently announced that fixing the broken pipe will take more time than initially planned, with emergency crews unlikely to finish closing it up before March or April due to unexpected safety concerns.
Methane emissions are up to 87 times more polluting than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span. Advocates for the residents warned there could be untold public health consequences, while environmentalists note that the size of the leak, which continues full force, is roughly a quarter of California’s total annual methane emissions.
“There is no safety mechanism to protect the public at all from the gas injection wells in Porter Ranch,” Patricia Oliver, an attorney for Porter Ranch residents, told the Los Angeles Daily News on Sunday. “The safety valve that should have been at the bottom of the well to prevent [the gas] from migrating up is not present in the wells…. All they had to do was keep a safety valve in place on that well. This massive release of methane shouldn’t have happened.”
The months-long saga has also compelled some California residents to raise questions about Governor Jerry Brown’s personal ties with the Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas), which owns the busted well. Brown’s sister, Kathleen L. Brown, is a paid member of the company’s board. And the governor himself has remained noticeably quiet on the crisis, although his office released a copy of a letter Brown wrote to SoCal Gas criticizing its insufficient response.
“While we are enthused the Governor seems to be aware of the Porter Ranch Gas Leak, we are scratching our heads trying to figure out where he’s been,” said Matt Pakucko, president of the San Fernando Valley-based advocacy group Save Porter Ranch, in a statement last month. “He continues to ignore us while this gas leak unravels his reputation as a so-called climate leader.”
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