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Governor Declares State Of Emergency As Disastrous Methane Leak Continues

Above: Crews from Southern California Gas and outside experts work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon facility above the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 9. 2015.

Aired 1/6/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Methane Leak Continues


Ingrid Lobet, reporter, inewsource

Gillian Wright, vice president, customer service, SoCalGas


The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency to help with efforts to quell a calamitous methane gas leak near Porter Ranch in Los Angeles County.

A representative from Southern California Gas, which owns the natural gas storage field where the leak occurred, told KPBS Midday Edition the company has relocated 2,450 families who live near the field and has 1,800 families waiting to be relocated.

The gas is not toxic, but the odor additive in it has made some ill. Residents report nose bleeds, headaches and nausea.

Ingrid Lobet, a reporter with KPBS news partner inewsource, has been covering the story. She said the amount of methane that has poured into the atmosphere is the equivalent of using up 53 million tanks of gas.

Attempts to stop the leak have so far failed. SoCalGas, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, has tried several methods to stem the gas flow. The company even called in Boots and Coots Services, a division of Haliburton that specializes in blown-out wells. They couldn't stop the leak.

"It's not something that we've seen before and not something that they've really seen either," said Gillian Wright, vice president of customer service with SoCalGas. Boots and Coots Services is considered the foremost expert in fixing gas leaks.

Wright said SoCalGas followed standard procedures — alerting authorities and pumping liquid into the well to block the flow of methane when the leak began Oct. 23. At that time, 67,000 pounds of the climate-changing gas spewed into the air each hour. The leak has slowed somewhat, and new efforts are underway to reach the leak and shift the gas to other pipelines.

Wright told KPBS Midday Edition work on a relief well is on schedule, reaching more than a mile underground as of Wednesday. Wright said SoCalGas is also taking steps to capture the methane leaking out of the well. The plan would divert the methane through a carbon filter to remove the smell and then burn off the gas to reduce the leak's effect on the environment.

The event, now the worst gas leak in California history, is reminiscent in some ways of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which disgorged some 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico until it was finally capped after three difficult months.

There are no natural gas storage fields in San Diego County, Wright said.

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