Frustrated by Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas)’s “slow motion” response to a methane leak that has been billowing out of control near Los Angeles since October, California’s U.S. senators on Friday pushed for the creation of a federal task force to investigate the disaster’s cause and whether the utility’s response to it has been adequate.
In a proposed amendment to the Energy Modernization Policy Act of 2015, Democratic senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein hope to ramp up efforts to understand the spill and prevent ones like it from occurring in the future. The senators said they will introduce the proposed amendment next week. The broad energy plan that it is attached to hit the Senate floor for debate Jan. 27.
“This amendment, which directs the government to look at the cause of the leak and the response, will provide valuable lessons on how we can keep communities all around the country safe from similar situations,” Sen. Feinstein said in a statement.
According to Law 360, the investigative task force would be led by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and would include one representative from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
This panel would make “recommendations on whether to continue operations at Aliso Canyon and other facilities in close proximity to residential populations based on an assessment of the risk of a future natural gas leak,” a draft of the amendment states.
“It has been very frustrating to watch this Aliso Canyon crisis unfold — almost in slow motion — without any clear remedy,” Sen. Boxer said in a statement.
The spill started in October and has surpassed its 100th day. Already it has released the amount of greenhouse gasses equivalent to that produced by half a million cars in one year, Senators Boxer and Feinstein said. SoCalGas Co. has repeatedly tried to stop the leak, but all of its attempts not only failed, but destabilized the well and increased the risk of an even more catastrophic blowout.
The spill has forced the evacuations of thousands of families, sickening residents with headaches, dizziness, nausea, coughing, and nosebleeds. Businesses that rely on the community’s patronage are also reportedly failing because of the evacuations.
According to Law 360, a real estate agent and the owners of a nail salon filed a lawsuit against SoCalGas seeking damages for “destroyed” businesses.
A putative class action was filed in California state court in November on behalf of residents of Porter Ranch, the community closest to the spill, alleging the emissions have made them sick.
South Coast Air Quality Management District also filed a state action against the utility in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging the utility created a public nuisance with its Aliso Canyon well leak. The complaint also asserts that “as a result of their negligence, people were injured.”
Source: Law 360