SoCal Gas Appeals Judge’s Order To Fund Temporary Housing In Porter Ranch Gas Leak
(CNS) Posted: Friday, February 26, 2016 – 10:50 AM
Southern California Gas Co. filed an appeal today of a judge’s order requiring the company to continue funding temporary housing for Porter Ranch residents whose neighborhoods were affected by the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak.
The original deadline for displaced residents to return to their homes, with SoCalGas ending the funding for their temporary housing, was Thursday, but a judge issued an order yesterday afternoon extending the deadline until March 18.
SoCalGas officials said the decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle was contrary to scientific evidence showing there is no health threat to residents from the leak, which began Oct. 23 and was cut off on Feb. 11 and officially declared capped Feb. 18.
“Our decision to file an appeal recognizes the substantial, public body of scientific data from local, independent air quality and health agencies that have demonstrated that the air quality in the area has never posed any long-term health risk, and that the air has now returned to the typical air quality levels that existed prior to the leak,” according to the utility.
“These health agencies say that with the leak gone, related symptoms should be gone. Air quality levels in and around Porter Ranch are consistent with levels before the leak occurred occurred.”
The order issued by Berle on Thursday came at the request of Los Angeles County. Led by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the Board of Supervisors has been pushing for the Gas Co. to give residents 30 days before returning to their homes, to provide assurances that the air has cleared and there is no lingering health risk.
The utility’s attorneys argued that the county’s own health experts said there was no threat of long-term health effects from the leak and that any short-term health effects will dissipate now that the leak has been capped.
The Gas Co. also noted that it is costing the company as much as $2 million a day to house roughly 3,400 displaced residents.
Attorneys for the county, however, argued that some residents who have already returned home after the capping of the leak are still reporting health issues, and more time should be allowed so additional air monitoring can be completed to ensure there is no lingering risk.
The Gas Co. had reached an agreement earlier this month with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office that gave most displaced residents eight days to return to their homes once the leak was officially declared capped by the state. That declaration was made Feb. 18.
Gas Co. officials insisted that the eight-day moving window was more than enough time for residents to return home, and that there was no threat to anyone’s health. According to the utility, the county’s demand for a 30-day moving window “conflicts with the science and health assessments made by the county’s own health experts.”
Gas Co. officials said Wednesday that 2,081 households had already checked out of their temporary housing and returned home. As of mid-February, more than 4,600 households were in temporary homes, according to SoCalGas.