Criminal charges filed over massive methane leak in California

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said criminal charges were filed against Sempra Energy unit SoCalGas for failing to immediately report the gas leak at its Aliso Canyon facility to the proper state authorities. Residents have complained of headaches, dizziness, nausea and skin rashes.

A nonprofit organization is making $5 million in loans and other financial assistance available to businesses affected by the ongoing natural gas leak near Porter Ranch.

H.R. 4429, the Natural Gas Leak Prevention Act, would require the Secretary of Transportation to issue adequate safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities, with the goal of preventing gas leaks similar to the one that occurred at the Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch last October. “Southern California Gas Company must be held accountable”, said Harris in a statement. The release of so much methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, complicates California’s efforts to reduce emissions and contribute to slowing the pace of climate change. “My office will continue to lead this cross-jurisdictional enforcement action to ensure justice and relief for Californians and our environment”. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Southern California Gas Company on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, alleging that the natural gas leak from nearby Aliso Canyon exacerbated the woman’s already fragile health. The suit seeks civil penalties, restitution and injunctions to enforce regulations. Methane is known to be more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. At the height of the leak, 100,000 pounds of methane spewed out into the atmosphere per hour.

“She realized that she is probably going to be the first of what may be, for the next few years, many casualties of this man-made disaster”, Rothman said. The California Air Resources Board, represented by Harris, also joined the lawsuit. Though, the 3,600 acre gas storage shutting down would press other smaller gas storages to make up for the loss, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The bulletin, which will be published in the Federal Register, reminds storage field owners to comply with state regulations and urges them to implement best practices developed by the American Petroleum Institute. If convicted, the company could be fined up to $25,000 for each of the three days it didn’t notify the state Office of Emergency Services of the leak. Also included are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 and Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged the utility with three misdemeanor counts for each day it allegedly failed to alert authorities to the leak after it had been discovered, as well as a fourth misdemeanor count for the leak itself.

A company spokeswoman said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation and was focused on stopping the leak, which it expects to plug by the end of the month.

“It is important that Southern California Gas held responsible for its criminal actions”, Lacey said in a written statement.

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