Fearing a massive explosion, officials dealing with the huge methane gas leak in Northern Los Angeles County, officials have decided not to light the excess gas on fire.
The Porter Ranch gas leak that forced Governor Brown to declare a state of emergency is in its third month and officials were considering a plan to burn excess gas until this weekend.
Fire officials along with state and federal regulators have refused to sign off on the plan to capture and burn excess methane fearing a massive explosion, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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The massive methane gas leak has been leaking for three months from Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon reservoir, forcing thousands of families to evacuate the area.
Officials discovered the leaking well in October during a twice-a-day inspection and immediately attempted to stop the leak.
After attempts to plug the leaking well with liquid failed, the company started drilling a relief well to plug the leak, but it’s not expected to be finished until April.
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Meanwhile, thousands of area residents have been evacuated and a court ordered $8,500 a month restitution for each household; two local schools have also closed and relocated to avoid the noxious fumes. Fearing an explosion, the Federal Aviation Administration has banned aircraft from flying below 2,000 feet within a half mile of the well.
Residents of the bedroom community in Northern Los Angeles have complained of headaches, heart problems, confusion, dizziness, and loss of motor control. Company officials say the methane itself isn’t dangerous; the symptoms are from “odorants” injected into the gas to provide a warning sign for leaks.
Officials have been searching for a way to bring relief to area residents and early attempts included charcoal filters and a temporary wall to contain a misty spray that developed after the company lowered the pressure in the well.
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While searching for a long term relief plan, authorities came up with an idea to use a 3-foot-wide pipe to capture escaping gas and funnel it to a safe burn area where it would be ignited.
If successful, the plan would burn off about half the methane gas released on a daily basis.
The state Public Utilities Commission, however, refused to sign off on the plan, fearing the damaged gas well could be vulnerable to a larger explosion, which would release even greater amounts of gas.
Meanwhile, area residents are starting to lose their patience. Several community response groups have popped up with names like Save Porter Ranch. Residents waving protest signs attended recent meetings to demand the closure of the entire Aliso Canyon gas reservoir and its 115 odd wells, according to The Fiscal Times.
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A few dozen residents gathered outside the Granada Hills High School Saturday to protest the gas leak; Matt Pakucko was among them and he told the Los Angeles Times it was time to shut down the facility.
The air district doesn’t need to stall any longer because it has all the information it needs to make the right decision right now: shut down the Aliso facility once and for all.
The gas company, however, contends it need the reservoir to provide on-demand gas to Los Angeles County residents.
An infrared video by the Environmental Defense Fund shows the methane gas pouring from the leaking well at the rate of 110,000 pounds per hour, making it the largest gas leak in U.S. history.
Experts have compared the natural disaster to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images