Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has agreed to pay nearly $120 million to cover costs resulting from its months-long Aliso Canyon methane gas blowout that forced thousands of residents to abandon their homes.
The SoCalGas leak started on Oct. 23, 2015, and continued to blast methane gas from the Aliso Canyon well until Feb. 18, 2016. The blowout was the largest single release of methane in U.S. history, according to the Associated Press.
The blowout prompted health complaints from residents in and around Porter Ranch, a community in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley region, and stoked concerns of benzene, a highly carcinogenic compound present in natural gas.
If approved by the court, the $119.5 million settlement will provide compensation to local, county, and state government agencies for expenses they incurred from the blowout. State officials said that settlement does not resolve claims for damages filed by Porter Ranch area residents who had to flee their homes and relocate for months. The SoCalGas blowout uprooted about 8,000 households.
In addition to reimbursing governments for costs associated with the blowout, the settlement will also fund local projects that benefit the environment, establish a project with the California Air Resources Board to reduce methane emissions from the SoCalGas wells, hire an independent monitor to oversee emissions and safety at the facility, and fund a long-term health study, among other measures.
The settlement also calls for SoCalGas to refrain from shifting the cost of the agreement to ratepayers by jacking up customer utility bills.
“There is no excuse for what happened,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “For over four months, this leak exposed our communities to natural gas emissions that resulted in adverse health impacts and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of Californians — displacing two area schools and driving residents from their homes.”
SoCalGas resumed its Aliso Canyon operations in July 2017 and seeks to increase its output and inventory there. Los Angeles County officials have sought repeatedly to prevent SoCalGas from restarting Aliso Canyon operations until it demonstrated its ability to withstand an earthquake. Those attempts have been unsuccessful.