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Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown declares state of emergency over massive methane leak ... Worse than BP?


California methane leak
(NaturalNews) A gas leak coming from Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon storage field in Los Angeles County, has led to California Governor Jerry Brown's declaration of a state of emergency. While a somewhat welcome announcement, many residents feel that such a decision is long overdue, considering that the problem began in October 2015, and has been leaking methane into the air on an ongoing basis ever since.(1)

This means that for several months, dangerous gas fumes have been moving directly towards a commuter residential area called Porter Ranch. The approximately 30,000 people who live there are understandably worried for their health, and as such, have engaged in numerous protests calling for a fix. To see just how serious the fumes are, check out this Reuters video.(1)

Additionally, the situation is so dire that several thousand Los Angeles residents have been displaced, creating much tension and question-asking.(1)

Why, for example, have regular attempts to fix the leak been unsuccessful? Why has it taken so long for people to take seriously the fact that 62 million cubic feet of methane has been leaking into the air there every single day? Where's the accountability?

Many plans in place to address BP-like problem: but will they work?

These questions – and many others – are what Governor Jerry Brown hopes to have resolved through his state of emergency declaration. In addition to meeting with Porter Ranch residents and touring the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility, he says helpful measures are in the works.(1)

For example, it's been made clear that SoCal Gas should maximize the amount of natural gas that's being removed from the facility, and that leaks should be captured when – not after – relief wells are built. The declaration also aims to identify exactly how the company can stop the leak in the event relief wells don't effectively seal, or – and hopefully this doesn't become the case – the current leak worsens.(1)

Furthermore, Mitchell Englander, the LA City Councilman who represents Porter Ranch, isn't hesitant to express concerns over the severity of this leak. In fact, he's likened the leak to the infamous BP oil leak, with the exception that this one is on land. In an NPR interview, he stressed that emergency room visits in the area have surged, people's cars are turning black, and that apparently, it was never disclosed to home buyers that "... one of the largest gas storage facilities in the United States was in their backyard."(2)

Pieces of the puzzle ... Well valve broke in 1979, was never fixed

It's sad to note that this might have been prevented, or at least not been so severe, if the well had been fixed back in 1979, which is the year that a valve broke and was never replaced. That's right ... for decades, a known problem was never fixed, and now residents are suffering the consequences. From nausea and headaches to nosebleeds and general feelings of sickness, they're the victims of a problem left unresolved. By the way, SoCal Gas says it they won't be able to drill a relief well – which will help remedy the problem and cap the existing well – until March 2016. Who knows how people's health will fare for another few weeks, let alone a few more months – if it even happens during the time frame specified.(1)

Interestingly, the broken valve illustrates a larger point that's fast-afflicting the country: The nation's infrastructure is crumbling, mainly due to outdated construction and long-term neglect. In San Francisco, California, some pipes are nearly 150-years old. In New York City, experts have found that about 1,000 miles of water mains are over 100 years old and numerous bridges are considered structurally unsound. It's obvious that serious infrastructure issues exist – yet are often ignored – from coast to coast. A prime example of letting a serious issue go by the wayside instead of promptly addressing it is the aforementioned broken valve that hasn't been touched since the late 1970s.(3)

As for the methane gas leak that's plaguing California residents, state and county officials say it won't cause any long-term health risks. Still, residents don't feel entirely reassured, especially in light of the fact that they're inhaling the pungent fumes daily. The problem is also so serious that state oil and gas regulators warn of a potential ignition risk near the leak, saying that workers aren't even allowed to bring cell phones to the site.(4)

Sources for this article include:

(1) TheBigWobble.org

(2) NPR.org

(3) NaturalNews.com

(4) LATimes.com
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