Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown declares emergency around Southern California gas leak

In this Dec. 9, 2015 file photo, crews work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon facility above the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles. The escape of tons of natural gas from under a Los Angeles neighborhood is taking months to stop because of pressure from the leak. The leak at Porter Ranch started in October, and likely won’t be fixed for at least two more months. Officials have relocated several thousand residents who said the stench made them sick. (Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool, File)
In this Dec. 9, 2015 file photo, crews work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon facility above the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles. The escape of tons of natural gas from under a Los Angeles neighborhood is taking months to stop because of pressure from the leak. The leak at Porter Ranch started in October, and likely won’t be fixed for at least two more months. Officials have relocated several thousand residents who said the stench made them sick. (Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News via AP, Pool, File) AP

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency around the massive natural gas leak in Southern California, ordering stepped up containment efforts and demanding that the owner of the well pay for emission-reduction projects elsewhere to make up for the disaster’s effect on the atmosphere.

The leak, from a well near the Los Angeles neighborhood of Porter Ranch, has been venting massive amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, since October.

In his order, the Democratic governor vowed to ensure that Southern California Gas Co. covers costs related to the leak, as well as a state program to make up for the leak’s methane emissions with other projects in California.

Brown, who visited the area this week, said Wednesday that the state will continue its prohibition against Southern California Gas injecting gas into the Aliso Canyon Storage facility until a review of the wells and air quality in the area is finished. He said he will also convene a panel of scientific and medical experts to review public health concerns around the leak.

Efforts to stop the leak have so far proved unsuccessful. Brown ordered state agencies to press Southern California Gas to detail how it will stop the gas leak if pumping gas through relief wells fails to close the leaking well.

Brown also called for more stringent monitoring of natural gas wells throughout the state and ordered a report from administration officials on “the long-term viability of natural gas storage facilities in California.”

Brown has come under criticism from some activists for the timing of his response, which the Center for Biological Diversity said Wednesday was “too little, too late.”

“Gov. Brown’s slow response is especially disturbing because state regulators’ hands-off approach to underground injection helped set the stage for this catastrophe,” the center’s Maya Golden-Krasner said in a prepared statement. “The state has known for years that aging natural gas infrastructure was a disaster waiting to happen, but officials mostly ignored those risks.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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