Inhabitat has previously reported on an extensive and ongoing natural gas leak in the Los Angeles area. Now, over two months since the problem began, California Governor Jerry Brown has declared the persistent natural gas leak to be an emergency that urgently needs to be addressed. The governor said that Southern California Gas Co’s efforts to close the underground leak have not been effective, and alternative methods of solving the problem must be explored.
The natural gas leak was first identified on 23 October, 2015 in a well used to store natural gas in Aliso Canyon, not far from the populated Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch. It is believed to have been started by a broken injection well pipe that burst several hundred feet below the surface. Although previous studies have found no long-term adverse health effects, the methane leak has been causing headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems for nearby residents. These ailments are likely caused by mercaptans, odorants added to natural gas. The leak also poses a public health problem due to its heavy emissions. At its peak, the gas leak was estimated to have accounted for 25 percent of California’s annual GHG emissions from methane.
The governor’s office has made fixing the leak a high priority and is taking steps to coordinate a response. “It has become so complex and there are so many different state agencies involved that it needs to be coordinated and directed in an organized way, like for a disaster,” says Kelly Huston, deputy director of the governor’s Office of Emergency Services. An emergency declaration will allow the governor to respond more quickly by granting the power to temporarily waive regulations, says Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor. In the long term, Governor Brown and local officials hope to produce a stronger regulatory mechanism to manage problems and more effectively stop leaks from occurring in the first place.