The Times

“It's a Danger”: Protesters Demand Closure of Porter Ranch Gas Facility

At a hearing Saturday, AQMD will consider an order which would require the gas company to minimize natural gas leaking from the well.

Hundreds of protesters and Porter Ranch residents rallied at Granada Hills Charter High School Saturday, calling for the permanent closure of a gas storage facility ahead of a hearing held by air quality regulators.

The protesters packed a meeting at the school held by the South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board to address concerns over a massive gas leak in the Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon storage complex.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board made no decision Saturday.

The leak, which began in October, has prompted the relocation of thousands of households from the area and has led to complaints of headaches, nausea and other ailments.

According to one estimate, more than 78,000 metric tons of methane have leaked from the storage well. That's equivalent to roughly 745 million gallons of gasoline burned, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

At Saturday's hearing, the South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board considered a proposed order, which would require the gas company to minimize natural gas leaking from the well, and capture and dispose of leaking gas.

Frustrated residents gathered outside the meeting, holding signs that read, "Shut it down!" and requesting immediate action from local officials.

"It's a danger. It's been affecting our health," said one attendant. "We've had to be relocated. We've basically been chased out of our community because the air has become toxic."

Under the order, SoCal gas would begin installing equipment to capture and incinerate natural gas leaking from its well in the Porter Ranch area.

"The captured odorized natural gas will be combusted by thermal oxidizers that will safely burn the gas in an enclosed, ceramic-insulated chamber," Kristine Lloyd, a project manager with the Gas Co., said. It is still unknown when the process will begin.

Lloyd said the system is being designed to be installed in two phases, and could ultimately incinerate up to 20 million standard cubic feet per day or filter odorant out of 14 million cubic feet per day.

The proposed abatement order would also require SoCalGas to continuously monitor the well, submit to the AQMD a plan for an enhanced leak-detection and well-inspection program, and commit to funding a health study on the impacts of exposure to the leaking gas.

SoCalGas is in the process of digging relief wells that are expected to allow the company to cap the leak. That process, however, is not expected to be completed until February or March.

AQMD officials noted that the proposed abatement order does require the extraction of gas from the well, and a ban on injecting any more into the well.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the Porter Ranch area due to the continuing leak. The order came two days after Brown met with a handful of residents in the Porter Ranch area and toured the storage facility and a relief well.

Air quality officials said the hearing could take all day, or several days.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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