L.A. County proclaims local emergency over gas leak near Porter Ranch

Los Angeles Times
By Abby Sewell

Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday proclaimed a state of local emergency over a gas leak at a storage facility in Aliso Canyon that has sickened residents of nearby Porter Ranch.

An underground storage well at the facility began leaking Oct. 23 and has since been emitting fumes and a sulfur-like smell that county health officials said could be causing the health problems nearby residents have reported, including nausea, headaches and vomiting.

Southern California Gas Co., which owns the facility, has paid to temporarily relocate 1,675 people who live near the facility, under orders by the county, and has installed air purification systems and other mitigation measures in 90 homes.

Crews are drilling a relief well to permanently seal off the leaking well, but the company has said a final solution to the problem is probably months away. 

County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who represents the area, called for the emergency proclamation, saying it is necessary because of the "increasing number of concerned and displaced residents, health concerns in the community and the uncertainty of when the well will be capped."

The supervisors unanimously ratified the declaration Tuesday. Declaring a local emergency is a first step for getting increased state and federal aid.

At least one Porter Ranch homeowner objected to the action, however.

"This is not a natural disaster," resident Isabel Loriente said. "In fact, it shifts the financial burden from those who should be responsible onto the taxpayers."

The gas leak has sparked multiple lawsuits and a flurry of actions by city and county officials.

Last week, Antonovich wrote a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown calling on the state to take "immediate action," including a moratorium on activity at the storage facility. He said the county would pursue legislation that would allow local governments, rather than the state, to regulate such facilities and give their own environmental clearances.

In the letter, he also suggested the state should look into closing the Aliso Canyon facility permanently and should analyze the potential repercussions to the region and ratepayers.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-porter-ranch-emergency-20151214-story.html