Disastrous California Methane Leak
by Stephen Lendman
Methane is the main component of natural gas – colorless, odorless and potentially explosive when mixed with air.
It’s an asphyxiant, in high concentrations able to displace oxygen needed to breathe. It can cause dizziness, headaches, bodily weakness, blurred vision, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, unconsciousness, suffocation and future diseases from toxic exposure.
Everyone is exposed to low levels in outdoor air. Methane began spewing unstoppably from a leaky Southern California Porter Ranch well last October 23 – about 25 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
It took weeks to discover the Alison Canyon source, perhaps many more months to stop it, according to Southern California Gas (SOCAL).
Gas is escaping from 8,000 feet below ground with no signs of abating – its force equivalent “to a volcanic eruption,” according to California’s Air Resources Board.
Low-flying planes were diverted to prevent potential explosions from methane in contact with aircraft engines.
Outside California, a disaster of potentially epic proportions gets short shrift media attention. Thousands of families were displaced.
The continuing environmental disaster is America’s worst since the 2010 BP Mexican Gulf spill – coastal areas and ecosystems devastated, still struggling to recover.
Gas is escaping at the rate of about 1,300 metric tons daily. Residents risk possible serious health problems.
The Environmental Defense
Fund estimates over 73,000 metric tons of methane released through early January.
Environmentalists estimate greenhouse gases released so far equal emissions from six coal-fired plants or seven million cars.
Environmental Defense Fund climate director Tim O’Connor calls the leak one of the largest ever reported – “coming out with force in incredible volumes…absolutely uncontained.”
So far, there’s no way to stop it – likely to continue through the winter, potentially well into spring with no fix on when it can be contained.
An assessment last fall was alarming, saying “(t)he enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated.”
Escaping gas “shows no signs of stopping.” Environmental and industry experts say they can’t recall another leak as disastrous in at least the last three or four decades.
Potentially it may become America’s greatest environmental disaster if continues unchecked for many months. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency.
Area lawyers representing three affected families filed suit, stating SOCAL’s well has been “leaking noxious odors, hazardous gases, chemicals, pollutants, and contaminants due to a massive well failure and blowout.”
“However, SoCalGas failed to inform residents of neighboring communities of the disastrous gas leak in a timely manner, putting the health and well-being of thousands of families in jeopardy.”
The company is accused of “negligence, strict liability of ultra-hazardous activity, private nuisance, inverse condemnation, and trespass.”
A separate class-action suit was filed. City attorney Mike Feuer filed civil suit, charging SOCAL with exacerbating “the effects of (its) failure by allowing the acute odor and health problems faced by the community to persist for more than one month, to say nothing about the indefinite time it will persist into the future.”
“No community should have to endure what the residents of Porter Ranch have suffered from the gas company’s continued failure to stop (its) leak.”
Potential health hazards from methane, benzene and radon components of natural gas put area residents at risk for future cancers and other diseases – with no way of proving SOCAL’s responsibility.
Methane continues spewing unstoppably, a disaster of potentially epic proportions given scant national media coverage.
The company says it working on a way to partially control leaking gas, not stop it – providing no details on when containment may begin.
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