Porter Ranch Residents Take Gas Leak Concerns to Second AQMD Meeting

Hundreds of Porter Ranch residents took their concerns over a monthslong gas leak that has stoked anxiety over the impact on their health at a second meeting with air quality regulators on Saturday.

The meeting was a continuation of a hearing from Jan. 9 with South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) board members, with many residents calling for a permanent closure of a gas storage facility.

The massive gas leak in the Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon storage complex, adjacent to Porter Ranch, prompted the relocation of thousands of households near the area. Many have complained of headaches, nausea and other ailments since the gas leak began in October.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board made no decision Saturday regarding what steps would be taken next.

The board was expected to vote the coming Wednesday.

Several people rallied outside Granada Hills Charter High School, where Saturday's meeting was held, calling for the permanent closure of Aliso Canyon.

The hearing comes just as Los Angeles County Supervisor expressed interest Friday in halting the process of a proposed 314-unit housing development.

"Until a thorough investigation can take place regarding the cause of the leak and the precautions and safeguards necessary to prevent a failure of this magnitude again, it is not appropriate to build more residential development in close proximity to Aliso Canyon," Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said in a press release.

On Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti demanded accountability for the leak, describing it as "a disaster on the scale fo what we saw with Deepwater Horizon," referencing the 2010 BP spill that sent millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, SoCal Gas is now saying it understated the number of times airborne levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene have spiked during the crisis.

The utitlity company had been saying that just two air samples over the past three months showed elevated concentrations of the compound. Now, it admits higher-than-normal readings had been found at least 14 times.

SoCalGas spokeswoman Kristine Lloyd said Thursday that it was "an oversight" that was being corrected. Utility officials continued to assert that the leak has posed no long-term risk to the public.

The company 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.

Since the leak was detected, more than 2,00 households and two schools have been relocated, according to SoCalGas.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the leak has released some 84,000 metric tons of methane and 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as of Friday.

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