The Obama administration has convened a task force to look into the Porter Ranch gas leak, with the goal of determining what specifically went wrong and how it can be prevented from happening again, CBS Los Angeles is reporting.
California’s Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein announced the convening of the multi-agency task force on Friday.
“[I am] gratified that President Obama understands that we must make sure that what happened in Aliso Canyon never happens again, and the task force he has appointed will report back in six months on how to do just that.”
The Porter Ranch gas leak (also called the Aliso Canyon gas leak) began on October 23, 2015, according to KCET (Los Angeles), when a pipe pumping natural gas from deep below the surface cracked, releasing tons of methane gas into the atmosphere. SoCalGas, the utility that owned the Aliso Canyon natural gas field, did not report the leak right away.
Within days, residents of the nearby well-to-do community of Porter Ranch began experiencing symptoms, including nausea, headaches, nosebleeds, and burning sensations in the nose and lungs, among other symptoms. The entire community was covered in the stench of rotten eggs. In early November, area residents began filing complaints with SoCalGas and various governmental agencies.
Within months, 12,000 residents of Porter Ranch and surrounding areas had been evacuated, according to this Inquisitr report, with residents, pets, and livestock suffering horribly from the effects of the leak.
Resident Paul Terterian says his entire family — including his pet — have been sickened by the stench of the natural gas (natural gas is naturally odorless and colorless; utilities artificially add a powerful smell so users can smell it in case of a gas leak).
“My wife has been sick. I took my dog to the emergency room. My dog has been put on oxygen. There’s something going on. Shut it down. Give us fresh air. We want to go home.”
Similarly, Amy Masliah believes her 7-year-old dog, Bonnie, died an agonizing death after developing a tumor in her lungs, which Amy believes was caused by the methane, odorants, and benzene released into the atmosphere from the leak.
“She died a very horrible, painful death. She couldn’t breathe. We had to put her to sleep.”
The gas leak was finally capped on February 18, 2016.
Government officials and SoCalGas give disputing claims about the extent of the environmental damage caused by the gas leak, according to dbTechno.
By some estimates, the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere during the leak equate to the annual carbon emissions of 600,000 cars. However, SoCalGas downplays that estimate, saying that the amount of greenhouse gas leaked into the atmosphere is about one percent of California’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Regardless of the extent of the environmental damage, the fact remains that tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. As of this writing, officials are going door-to-door in the region, testing homes to make sure that they are safe for their owners to return to.
Lynn Orr, the Energy Department’s undersecretary for science and energy, and Marie Therese Dominguez of the Transportation Department, will co-chair the task force looking into the gas leak.
“The fact that this leak happened in the first place, the length of time that it took to fix, and the disruption that it caused for so many people are very concerning.”
The task force plans to work with experts in the energy and environmental fields, among others, to develop plans for storage of natural gas, and to ensure further compliance, so that a similar leak won’t ever happen again.
The findings of the Porter Ranch natural gas leak task force are expected to be released in no less than a year.
[Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool, File]