The charges allege that the Southern California (SoCal) Gas Company violated health and safety laws by failing to report and contain leaking methane. The criminal complaint charges the gas company with one count of discharge of air contaminants and three counts of failing to report the release of a hazardous, as reported by Al Jazeera.
“While we recognize that neither the criminal charges nor the civil lawsuits will offer the residents of Los Angeles County a complete solution, it is important that Southern California Gas Co.be held responsible for its criminal actions”, District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a written statement, Reuters reported. At the height of the leak, 100,000 pounds of methane spewed out into the atmosphere per hour.
The agency’s advisory said gas storage operators should check for leaks and identify potential failures from corrosion and other damage.
The gas leak is also leading a new effort to reform the state Public Utilities Commission.
“Attorney General Harris’ action today is a significant step in the ongoing effort to hold Southern California Gas accountable, end this public health emergency and assure it never happens again”, said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who filed suit against Southern California Gas Company on December 7.
A methane leak from an underground gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon was first detected on October 23 previous year, but no official cause has been given for the event that has forced 6,600 homes in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles to be evacuated. A spokesman for SoCal Gas said the bill increases are not related to the gas leak, but blames them instead on the region seeing a colder-than-usual winter.
His mother, Zelda Rothman lived in Porter Ranch, less than three miles from the leaking well at the Aliso Canyon facility.
The leak has prompted state and federal legislation.
The lawsuit includes yet-unnamed corporate officers of the gas company who were in a position of responsibility to either prevent, or immediately correct, the leak. The case is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Clarita on February 17.
The criminal charges now facing SoCalGas carry a penalty of up to $1,000 per day for air pollution violations, and $25,000 for each day that it failed to notify the California Office of Emergency Services, the DA’s office said.
The family alleges that the gas leak undermined Rothman’s health and ultimately hastened her death and that SoCalGas operated an aged natural gas well.
It’s not just odors that Porter Ranch residents are anxious about.
The leak, which was discovered on October 23, 2015, has yet to be abated.
“When we’re going to talk about Sempra energy and Southern Cal. Gas, and obviously they’re going to get sued, and boy howdy it’s going to be – in my opinion – potentially billions of dollars, do we not go from nuisance to criminal conduct?” environmental activist Erin Brockovich told ATTN:.
The lawsuit alleged the utility broke state health and safety laws by failing to promptly control the release of the natural gas, Harris said.