Los Angeles Daily News
By Gregory J. Wilcox
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared a state of emergency over a Southern California Gas Co. leaking well site above Porter Ranch that has pumped up to 1,200 tons of methane into the atmosphere.
The county declaration, proposed by Supervisor Michael Antonovich, whose district includes the massive Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, paves the way for state and federal assistance and was approved unanimously.
“This action will seek state and federal assistance 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. “The residents ... have suffered for more than 50 days since the gas leak was discovered.”
The supervisor noted that 88 air purifiers have been installed in the community and 275 have been scheduled for installation in the area.
“While the gas company is working to address the leak, we still do not have a clear timeline as to when this crisis will be resolved. While county agencies have been monitoring the gas leak to assess the public health threat, we have called on the governor and state agencies including the Public Utilities Commission and the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources for assistance,” Antonovich said.
The Los Angeles City Council also approved four emergency motions related to the leak that were submitted by Councilman Mitchell Englander, chairman of the Public Safety Committee. One of those motions called for the council to support the supervisors’ action.
The motions also dealt with the gas company’s relocation efforts, residential tax relief and business tax relief.
“Due to the mass relocation of residents, short-term health effects experienced and the poor air quality in the vicinity of the gas leak, compounded by the uncertainty as to when a solution will be reached, it is imperative that the governor step in and declare a local emergency so this community can receive the resources it needs,” Englander said in a statement.
His motion regarding the company’s relocation efforts consists of 13 actions.
• Incentives to landlords to enter into short-term leases, including premiums, if necessary to provide comparable housing.
• Immediate cash compensation for those who cannot be immediately moved, upon request, to comparable housing.
• Provision of out-of-pocket health-related costs to relocated residents or those declining relocation to assess current or ongoing health effects.
• Providing moving companies to help relocate residents.
• Private security patrols 24/7 for vacant residences so as not to put an undue burden on Los Angeles Police Department.
• Provision of maintenance and landscaping services for vacated properties.
• Monetary consideration and accommodation for residents who receive assisted nursing services in their homes.
• The cessation of billing all residents in the affected area for natural gas services until the leak is fixed.
Englander is also asking the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor to make available a program that provides property tax relief that is normally available if a property is damaged or destroyed by a calamity.
“We sincerely regret this, and alongside our work to stop the leak, we are redoubling our efforts to alleviate the concerns about the leak’s impact on the community and the environment,” the gas company said in a statement. “Along with trying to reduce the level of emission, we have established three programs for residents to participate in.
“We are aware the City Council has asked that additional ideas be considered to be included in this package. We will review these options and work with the mayor and council as we have with other issues.”
Earlier Tuesday, the company announced that it would open a Community Resource Center today at 19731 Rinaldi St., just south of Ralphs in the Porter Ranch Town Center.
It will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The center will offer guidance on the relocation process, how to file a claim, and how to get free home air filtration and weather stripping to reduce odor.
It also said that as of the end of business Monday, it placed 1,675 households in temporary accommodations. There are 1,217 households in various stages of making arrangements and the company is in process of getting in touch with 473 households.