Lawmakers on Monday announced a legislative package in response to a methane gas leak that has forced thousands of people from their homes in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles.
A group of four state senators met outside Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon storage facility, where the leak was detected late October, calling for a moratorium of on any new gas injections.
The lawmakers said an aggressive plan beyond the emergency declaration made by Gov. Jerry Brown last week was needed, and referred to the gas leak as a local, national and international disaster.
Sen. Fran Pavley, who represents the area, said more testing at well sites and better industry regulations are the best ways to prevent another disaster.
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"This is a challenge. It is a tragedy and I know we can do better," Pavley said.
Sen. Ben Allen said the leak continued to be detrimental to the local and state environment.
"At its peak this was emitting the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 7 million automobiles," Allen said.
The leak has forced 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 a hearing on Saturday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board considered a proposed order that would require the Southern California Gas Co. to minimize natural gas leaking from the well and to capture and dispose of leaking gas.
Hundreds of frustrated residents packed the meeting to express their outrage, calling for the permanent closure of Aliso Canyon. Residents have also said they are not being provided with enough information from SoCal Gas in the wake of the leak, including potential health hazards and a realistic timeline for when it can be stopped.
Southern California Gas Co. is in the process of digging relief wells that are expected to allow the company to cap the leak. That process, however, likely will not be completed until February or March.
In the meantime, two schools have been relocated. More than 1,000 students from Porter Ranch will not head back to school on Monday, as is planned for the majority of Los Angeles Unified School District.
Students are expected to return to school on Tuesday at different campuses.
Lawmakers hope their efforts will address fears and get life back to normal for Porter Ranch residents.
"It is our intent in the legislature to address these concerns to find solutions so we build our more sustainable energy grid in the safest way possible," Sen. Bob Huff said.
SoCalGas did not comment on what a moratorium would do for its operations and added it's focused on capping the leaking well.