There's an Environmental Disaster Happening in LA

Solution to methane gas leak is still months away
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2015 9:35 AM CST
There's an Environmental Disaster Happening in LA
Aerial footage from Dec. 17, 2015, shows a methane gas leak in Los Angeles.   (YouTube screenshot)

Erin Brockovich is calling it the worst environmental catastrophe since the 2010 BP oil spill: Methane has been leaking from a well in Los Angeles for at least two months and will continue to do so for at least two more. Southern California Gas detected the leak—seen here using an infrared camera—at its underground natural-gas storage facility in the Porter Ranch neighborhood on Oct. 23, but it took officials until Sunday to identify the leaking well, per Quartz. As for exactly where the leak itself is in the 8,700-foot-deep well, the company is "not sure," a rep tells the Los Angeles Times. Officials' solution: They've been drilling a relief well, which has hit a depth of 3,800 feet. CBS News reports they'll go another 5,000 feet or so, intersect the leaking well, and plug it. They expect the drilling to be done Feb. 24.

Several families are now suing SoCal Gas, per CBS News; 2,200 families have been relocated; and the county has fielded "a substantial number of reports" from people complaining of headaches and nausea. Popular Mechanics notes the FAA has gone so far as to keep flights out of the area. And then there's the environmental toll: The Environmental Defense Fund says the leak has the same daily impact as do the emissions from 7 million cars—LA County has 6.2 million. The director of the EDF's California oil and gas program adds that the Porter Ranch site is part of an aging network of natural gas plants and pipelines. "This type of event could happen at any one of these other sites," says Tim O'Connor. As for Brockovich's claim, he tells Quartz it's an apples-and-oranges thing—but this "a very big orange." (More methane stories.)

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