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Porter Ranch gas leak: Gov. Brown declares the leak an emergency

Since Oct. 23, 2015, natural gas has been spewing from a ruptured well at SoCal Gas' Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Since Oct. 23, 2015, natural gas has been spewing from a ruptured well at SoCal Gas' Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday over the natural gas leak that has driven thousands of residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles from their homes over the past two months.

The governor’s move reverses his previous resistance to repeated public calls for an emergency declaration. Still, it wasn’t the sort of declaration that allows the governor to waive certain laws or clear the way to spend added state or federal funds.

L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, who represents that portion of the San Fernando Valley, said the declaration gives the state more power over how SoCal Gas responds to the leak.

“He added a lot of the teeth that had been missing,” Englander said of the governor’s order.

It orders the company to do more to capture the leaking methane to keep it from adding to the state’s load of greenhouse gases. It requires the gas company to disclose its next plan to plug the leaking well if the current plan to close it fails.

"Our focus remains on quickly and safely stopping the leak and minimizing the impact to our neighbors in Porter Ranch," Dennis Arriola, president and CEO of SoCal Gas, said in a statement. "SoCal Gas reaffirms our prior commitment to mitigate the environmental impact of the actual amount of natural gas released from the leak."

The governor’s declaration  expands air quality monitoring and convenes an independent panel to assess the health risks and impacts of the gas leak. SoCal Gas would pay that cost.

The order also calls for daily inspection of all similar wells in the state. The leaking well in the Aliso Canyon gas storage field is one of 115 gas injection wells, many of them 60 years or older.

Paula Cracium, president of Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, said she was grateful for the declaration, and not concerned that it falls short of one that would mobilize federal funds for her neighborhood to cope with the gas leak.

“It appears he’s responsive to the conversation we had a few days ago,” Cracium said. “Much of what we discussed is in that declaration."

A press release from Brown's office said that the proclamation comes due to the "prolonged and continuing duration of the Aliso Canyon gas leak," as well as coming at the request of both residents and local officials.

Brown met with Porter Ranch residents and toured the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility earlier this week.

Read the full emergency proclamation below: