Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said Wednesday that he will ask the Board of Supervisors to declare a “state of emergency” regarding a leaking well at Southern California Gas Co.’s storage facility above Porter Ranch.
The board will take up the request at next week’s meeting.
“This action will ask for state and federal assistance to provide for our residents in the Porter Ranch area with additional air monitoring and help with efforts to cap the well,” Antonovich said in a statement. “This is a serious problem that has severely impacted our communities for the last 48 days.”
More than 3,600 families have been or are being relocated.
Antonovich also sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown saying that the gas company did not report the leak in a timely fashion and had not prepared a response plan for such an event. He is also asking the state Public Utilities Commission to conduct a review of the facility regarding its “future viability.”
During a Wednesday afternoon briefing at a gas company facility in Chatsworth on progress to fix the leak, Gillian Wright, vice president of customer services for the utility, said she could not comment on Antonovich’s plan because she did not know about it.
Antonovich’s call for the emergency declaration and the gas company briefing came in advance of a community meeting Wednesday evening in Porter Ranch during which environmental activist Erin Brockovich and her team of experts discussed the leak with local residents.
At the afternoon briefing, Wright said that the company would be opening a community outreach center at a storefront in the Porter Ranch Town Center on Dec. 18, and that the company on Wednesday launched a dedicated web site, www.AlisoUpdates.com, to better communicate with residents, some of whom have excoriated the company’s efforts to date.
The company is also moving forward relocating residents experiencing health problems related to the leak into temporary housing.
As of Wednesday morning 1,143 families had been relocated and 2,512 were being processed for the temporary housing.
“What we are focused on is getting community members back in their homes as soon as we can,” she said.
The company stressed again that air samples taken at the well site and in the community remain below levels that health agencies consider hazardous.
But company officials again refused to quantify how much material has leaked into the atmosphere from the Aliso Canyon storage facility, which can hold about 86 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
Company official said it is a critical infrastructure component of the region’s energy system and is so important that access to it has been restricted by the Department of Homeland Security.
But on a recent assessment of the leak, the California Air Resources Board estimated that it is pumping more than 50,000 kilograms of methane an hour into the atmosphere above the north San Fernando Valley.
Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity, said that the company will calculate how much gas has vented into the atmosphere once the leak is plugged.
“I cannot speculate. The facts need to come out,” he said.
Earlier this week an attorney for Save Porter Ranch, which is suing the company over the leak, released an infrared video of the methane cloud escaping into the atmosphere.
Company officials also use that type of photography but would not comment on the community group’s video.
“The (video) confirmed what we’ve been saying all along, that there is a leak,” Cho said.
This article was written by Gregory J. Wilcox from Los Angeles Daily News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.