California's Huge Gas Leak Officially an 'Emergency' Governor makes it so, but fix still could be months away By Newser Editors, Newser Staff Posted Jan 7, 2016 6:03 AM CST 51 comments Comments In this Nov. 3, 2015, photo provided by Southern California Gas Co., crews work on the leak. (Javier Mendoza/SoCalGas via AP, File) (Newser) – California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday over the crazy natural gas leak that's been spewing massive amounts of methane over a Los Angeles neighborhood since October and may not be fixed for months. Some related coverage: Brown's declaration seeks to speed up the repair and improve backup plans, and requires that well operator Southern California Gas cover projects to reduce emissions elsewhere in the state. Details at the Sacramento Bee. So what happened? Engineers think a 7-inch pipe burst 500 feet below ground, and the Los Angeles Times reports that the leaking well lacked a working safety valve. The story has a graphic explaining what's happening below ground to try to plug the leak. More than 2,000 households in the Porter Ranch neighborhood have relocated to hotels, motels, and relatives' homes, and residents are worried about illnesses and property values, reports the Wall Street Journal. "You can't see it, so there's denial," says a woman whose 2-year-old daughter was hospitalized for respiratory issues. People are getting sick (headaches, dizziness, nosebleed, nausea) not from the gas itself but from chemicals added to it to help detect leaks, reports the New York Times. Health officials say the long-term effects are small. Gizmodo calls this the biggest natural gas leak on record and has one question for Brown: "What took so long?" This "could seriously set back the Obama administration’s high profile efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute directly to global warming," explains the Fiscal Times.