‘Shut It Down': Lawmaker Tours Porter Ranch Gas Leak Site

Southern California Gas Co. first reported the leaking well in October

A San Fernando Valley lawmaker and Los Angeles council member toured the site of the natural gas leak Tuesday at the Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon Storage Facility in Porter Ranch.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, was accompanied by L.A. city Councilman Mitch Englander on the tour. The Gas Co. was not allowing reporters on the tour, but Sherman said photos would be provided by his office.

"This is a major catastrophe," said Englander. "This is beyond a nuisance and an inconvenience. This a  community, economic and environmental disaster."

SoCalGas President Dennis Arriola and SoCalGas Chief Engineer Jimmy Cho are scheduled to provide Sherman and his staff updates on leak situation and the efforts to plug it.

n an interview with KNX before the tour, Sherman made no effort to conceal doubts that the storage facility can be made safe. He said his skepticism stemmed in part from the fact many of the pipes being used are from the 1950s and from the absence of surface safety valves, which he said had been removed in 1979 and never replaced.

"You couldn't get replacement parts for it," Sherman said. "That was a mistake.

"We have a lot to do to plug this leak and a lot to do before they're allowed to put any more natural gas in that facility. We should shut it down. They should be pulling as out of this facility as quickly as possible."

After the tour, Sherman was asked about conditions at the site.

"You can hear the gas escaping," said Sherman. "It sounds like a hell of a lot of gas escaping."

A State Assembly plans to conduct a committee hearing about the leak Thursday in Porter Ranch, Sherman said.

Southern California Gas Co. first reported the leaking well in October, and since then an estimated 77 million kilograms of methane have been released. Northwest San Fernando Valley communities near the site have been dealing with foul odors and nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and other short-term ailments. Pets have also displayed unusual behaviors and such ailments as nosebleeds.

The Gas Co. announced Monday that it expects to stop the leak by late February, if not sooner, as work on its relief well project is proceeding ahead of schedule. The relief well drilling began Dec. 4 and is expected to reach the bottom of the well at a depth of about 8,500 feet below the surface next month, according to Jimmie Cho, the engineering head.

The Gas. Co. also said it has abandoned a plan to capture and burn the leaking natural gas. The announcement came just two days after the South Coast Air Quality Management District announced that the company’s proposal to burn the gas would be placed on hold because of the risk of a catastrophic explosion.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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