Porter Ranch residents demand closure of gas facility after leak

Porter Ranch residents demand closure of gas facility after leak

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation) — Residents living near the location of the largest gas leak in U.S. history are fighting the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision to permit the company responsible for the 2015 leak to expand on the same site.

Despite a settlement that mandated the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility’s closure, the expansion request is pending approval from the commission.

Tuesday marks the last day for public input regarding a controversial energy facility that was held accountable for displacing tens of thousands of families due to a significant gas leak in history.

It’s regarded as the worst gas blowout in U.S. history. During the spring of 2015, more than 25,000 people were forced to evacuate their Porter Ranch, California homes due to the release of more than 100,000 tons of harmful chemicals into the air. Even now, those affected are grappling with the lasting consequences.

“I started getting sick, fatigue, bleeding nose and I didn’t know what it was,” said Porter Ranch resident Orlando Arias. “Until a year later, they were running some tests and they found out I had cancer due to that gas leak. That’s what they told me.” 

Arias continues to undergo chemotherapy and receive blood treatments every month.

Meanwhile, residents such as Matt Pakucko and Kyoko Hibino experience daily nosebleeds and painful rashes.

Hundreds of others have received portions of the $2 billion class action lawsuit for their pain and suffering since the blowout. However, they are once again frustrated by the potential expansion of the facility’s operations, despite years of protests to shut it down.

“That place is still emitting stuff. It’s not like this is a thing that happened,” said Pakucko, of the nonprofit organization Save Porter Ranch. “It’s ongoing. People are still paying for this.”

“The community wants this facility shut down. It is absolutely unnecessary,” said Andrea Vega of Food and Water Action.

Ongoing supply and demand concerns are driving the push to expand. SoCalGas, the facility’s owner, warns that consumers might face a price increase if storage capacity for natural gas isn’t expanded.

“The California Public Utility Commission’s proposal to increase local natural gas storage levels ahead of winter is a prudent step that would help advance our shared goal of maintaining energy reliability at just and reasonable rates,” SoCalGas said in a statement.

Despite that, California Senator Henry Stern believes that’s a misrepresentation coming from a company that has the power to control the supply and set the rates.

He’s among nearly a dozen lawmakers who have submitted a formal appeal to the Public Utilities Commission to protect the public and close down the facility by 2027.

“I don’t think the gas company has done much to earn our trust here. They haven’t even admitted fault, though with the Aliso Canyon disaster,” Stern said. “I’m putting my shoulder against a very big machine, and I don’t always feel like I’m succeeding for them, but we’re going to. We’re gonna fight like hell here.”

Since the leak, improvements have been implemented to enhance the facility’s security. Infrared monitoring systems are now in place to detect leaks, full-time employees oversee the proper functioning of the system and new reporting protocols ensure that any potential leaks are not concealed from the community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *