Protesters stand outside Los Angeles City Hall during a demonstration ahead of the testimony before the Los Angeles City Council on the natural gas leak in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, California, 1 December 2015. Photo: Gus Ruelas / REUTERS

By Lucy Nicholson, with additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Alistair Bell
20 January 2016

(Reuters) – Air quality regulators, meeting for the third time this month to address a huge natural gas leak that has forced thousands of Los Angeles residents from their homes, delayed action again on Wednesday on a proposal to curtail the escaping methane.

The five-member hearing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District scheduled a fourth meeting for Jan. 23 to take more testimony on a plan to siphon off and incinerate methane that has been spewing into the air since October.

The stench of gas fumes has sickened scores of people and led to efforts to temporarily relocate of some 6,000 households from the Porter Ranch community of northern Los Angeles at the edge of the leaking Aliso Canyon underground gas storage field.

But local and state agencies have raised safety concerns with the proposal to capture and burn off some of the methane, as have engineers for Southern California Gas Co., owner of the crippled facility.

The proposed abatement order also calls for the utility to accelerate extraction of its remaining subterranean gas reserves so as to relieve pressure on the ruptured wellhead.

In its first three hearings this month to review the plan, including Wednesday, the board opted to merely hear public comment, much of it from disgruntled residents demanding the facility be shut down altogether.

The company has insisted the leak, while a major public nuisance, poses no immediate public safety threat because the gas dissipates outdoors. But health officials said long-term health effects remain unknown. [more]

Regulators delay action again on huge California methane leak

By Mireya Villarreal
20 January 2016

PORTER RANCH, California (CBS News) – County health officials said Wednesday they don't believe there will be any long-term effects from the methane gas leak in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles. The gas has been spewing from a well since October.

The pool of people affected by the Porter Ranch gas leak is swelling. Officials have now doubled the impact zone, adding thousands who are eligible to relocate.

Mark Morris is deciding whether to leave.

"This is impacting the planet," said Morris. "This is bad what's going on up there. It needs to stop and it needs to be shut down."

To stop the leak, the utility company, Southern California Gas, is drilling down 8,000 feet and using a relief well to intersect the leaking pipe and plug it up. Crews are being very careful, drilling just 20 feet a day.

Still, SoCalGas announced they expect to have the leak plugged by the end of February.

Congressman Ben Sherman said if the first relief well doesn't work, they will keep trying until the leak is plugged.

"You got to keep trying to seal this until either the field is empty or the leak is plugged," said Congressman Ben Sherman. "If it just keeps leaking, it goes for a year."

The Eng family of eight is living out of suitcases in a hotel.

"The kids were experiencing nose bleeds and stomach aches. It was because of them that we actually decided to make the decision to move out and relocate out of Porter Ranch," Leslie Eng explained.

California methane leak impact zone doubles in size



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