Friday, February 12, 2016

SoCalGas Fixes LA Gas Leak

Over the past 16 weeks in Los Angeles, 66,000-97,000 pounds of methane have been released into the Porter Ranch neighborhood every hour. It wasn't until Friday, February 12th, 2016 that the gas leak was filled up with cement. As of now, residents of 2,200 homes have been temporarily relocated, and the Southern California Gas Company has paid for the temporary living conditions of these people.

Residents of Porter Ranch are allowed to return home eight days after investigators and authorities rule the area safe. California Senator Barbara Boxer supports the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to do this type of investigatory work; however, because residents have raised concerns, she is also calling for an independent group to test each neighborhood.

As of now, the total amount of damages from this incident is $250 million, but the number may be higher since the $250 million only includes the cost of relocating residents and filling the well, not the lawsuits of those affected and actions to reduce the effects of the released methane.

What kinds of punishment should Southern California Gas Company receive? How can we counteract the effects of the millions of pounds of methane that were released into the atmosphere? Should there be tighter regulations on natural gas wells since the SS-25 (name of the leaking well) wasn't mandated to have a valve?



Anna Joshi said...

I always struggle with punishment questions because I feel like after something happens in a company that involves public health, they are going to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Yet, at the same time, I see why a punishment would be necessary in order to ensure that the company doesn’t cut corners and allow something bad like that to happen again. That being said, I would probably punish the person or sector that is held accountable as well as the heads of the company, for just allowing it to happen in general, with a major-major fine with maybe a temporary ban on benefits. A company that is working with dangerous gases, especially in neighborhoods and public places, should have safety be their number one priority. Therefore I find it unacceptable that the Southern California Gas Company allowed this to happen, especially since it disrupted and endangered the lives of many. As I read through this article though, I found it hard to pinpoint whether this was more of the companies fault, or the governments fault for not having and regularly enforcing regulations. In my opinion, I think there really should be tighter regulations, not only on natural gas wells but pipelines, etc., because leaks can lead to a multitude of problems: health issues, water contamination issues (through ground water), and disruption.

Meghan Hilbert said...

My Dad was personally hired by the SOCAL gas company to do an investigation as to how the gas leak happened (he's an engineer), and the one thing he has said the most returning from business trip after business trip is how sorry he feels for their bank accounts because the SOCAL gas company are about to get huge lawsuits from angry civilians from all over. Apparently, they understand how horrible the damage is, and are willing to face consequences. It seems from all the news coverage and reports from my dad and his company that this is their punishment: Losing millions of dollars, a negative reputation, and confusion. It seems as if they weren't careless, it was simply a freak accident. I believe that the lawsuits and hostile civilians is a bad enough punishment. According to, methane can cause dizziness and headaches if one is exposed. However, it says that it doesn't cause cancer or organ damage, so people should attempt to avoid more exposure, but also know they are okay. Because of the immense news coverage, it is obvious this situation isn't reoccurring and common. I believe that natural gas laws are okay for now.

Janet Liu said...

Interesting! As Meghan mentioned, a big blowout like what happened in LA certainly doesn't occur everyday. But an article from the SF Chronicle indicates otherwise. Every day, the Chronicle stated, "pipelines across California leak tons of the same gas — methane — into the air. And the total amount collectively leaked each year likely exceeds the vast volume of methane spewed from the Aliso Canyon blowout near Porter Ranch." Many of these leaks have been left alone for years, deemed too insignificant to fix. Talk about small streams carving canyons!

Gas companies such as PG&E report that they are addressing the leaks, have better detection technology in place, and have significantly reduced the backlog of old pipes in need of replacement. But are the repairs part of company expenses, or will we see our gas bills rise in the coming years? Moreover, which communities will receive the priority replacements? Porter Ranch is a relatively affluent community; would this incident have received as much attention if it had happened in, say, the inner cities? Would gas companies still have claimed responsibility for fixing old pipes?

Lea Tan said...

This incident is definitely a wake up call regarding the possible consequences of natural gas. We haven't seen a super large scale natural gas/oil accident in a while. In 2010, both the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the gas pipe explosion in San Bruno occurred. It should be a reminder that there are lot of risks to using such dirty resources to fuel our every day lives, whether its a risk to the environment, people's health, or even people's lives. While the most ideal solution would be to stop using these resources altogether, it really isn't feasible, so I think that the government should put much stricter regulations on gas pipelines and gas companies in general. The Porter Ranch leak already released at least 80,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere, which is 80,000 more metric tons of greenhouse gases than we need. Global warming continues to worsen at a frighteningly fast pace, and if another gas leak such as this one were to occur again, we'd be putting both people's lives and the planet's well being at risk.