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Huge Gas Leak In The Valley Boosted California's Methane Emissions By 25%

The Aliso Canyon Gas & Oil Field (Photo by Roy Randall via the Creative Commons)
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A massive gas leak is sickening residents in an affluent L.A. neighborhood, and SoCalGas says it could take months to fix.Methane has been pouring out of a leak discovered on Oct. 23 from the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon storage facility, and residents in nearby Porter Ranch—a neighborhood in the Valley—are saying that not only is the rotten egg smell noxious, but that the gas is causing headaches, nausea, dizziness and nosebleeds. Around 30 families have been relocated with assistance from SoCalGas, reports the Los Angeles Daily News.

The amount of gas leaking is massive—around 50,000 kilograms per hour according to a report by the California Air Resources Board. Between the leak's discovery on Oct. 23 and Nov. 20, the methane emitted has accounted for a quarter of the state's emissions.


(via California Air Resources Board)
Methane is a greenhouse gas, and the amount of gas estimated to have leaked from Aliso Canyon is equivalent to 0.80 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—or as the L.A. Times puts it, driving 160,000 cars for a year or using 90 million gallons of gasoline. California is already home to the second worst "hot spot" of methane emission in the U.S., thanks to the landfills and cattle ranches in the Central Valley. Angelenos driving north this week will no doubt recognize Harris Ranch when they drive by it.

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"The relative magnitude of emissions from the leak compared to other sources of methane in the State underscores the urgency of stopping the leak," says the Air Resources Board in their report.

The leak itself is from a ruptured pipe a few hundred feet below the surface, but the well it is connected to goes up to 8,500 feet below. The initial attempt to plug the leak with brine and gravel failed, and SoCalGas is now drilling a relief well in another attempt to fix the leak, and according to KPCC that work could take up to 90 days.

In the meantime, Porter Ranch residents remain furious about the noxious gas. Methane itself is not toxic, but the mercaptan added to it to give it the signature "rotten egg" smell is the source of the discomfort and health problems associated with the leak.

On Monday night, several residents affected by the leak held a rally downtown to vent their anger. "We live in a very nice house—I don't want to move out," Sue Holl, a Porter Ranch resident who attended the rally, told NBC Los Angeles. "But I don't know about the long term health risks for my children."

A hearing was held by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning to discuss the matter. According to KNX 1070, SoCalGas issued an apology over the leak.

SoCalGas has put up a website with up-to-the-minute information concerning the gas leak.