Southern California Gas Company has been responsible for several fossil (natural) gas leaks – methane, laced with mercaptan to help you smell the odorless gas. We cover the dangers, from Aliso Canyon (the largest gas leak in history) to smaller neighborhood leaks where a strong gas-like odor blankets entire neighborhoods. Then there are the chronic leaks from gas storage facilities like Playa del Rey and the gas plant in Sun Valley and throughout urban areas where gas pipes constantly seep into the air – we talk about what we can do to stop the leaks, end the addiction to gas, and transition to cleaner, renewable energy.
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Methane Gas Leaks Keep Happening – and the Climate Keeps Warming
Southern California Gas Company has cautioned that some of the smells are from a spill of a supposedly nontoxic odorant methyl mercaptan added to natural gas as a safety precaution so people can notice its presence.
People complain that these odors do not dissipate and have claimed lingering health issues. It should be noted that methyl mercaptans and other odor markers can break down to form other chemicals in the atmosphere. It is these mercaptans and their possible byproducts that may be a health concern.
The SoCal Gas Company, owned by Sempra Energy, has been charged in multiple cases for failing to inform the public properly of when they have a spill, leak, or accident, and what risks this presents to communities. In 2015, it took months for SoCal Gas to disclose a massive rupture at the gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon next to the San Fernando Valley community of Porter Ranch.
Now years after 100,000 metric tons of methane spewed from one of 115 aged wells, which sickened thousands of people and forced them to temporarily leave their homes, the facility has been reopened and people continue to claim health effects. In fact, an independent health study by Dr. Jeffrey Nordella found high levels of uranium, lithium and a synthetic chemical used to make plastics were present in the urine and hair samples of residents who live near the site.
This begs the question as to why the facility remains open? And further why oil and gas drilling and storage continues in SoCal communities such as South LA, Wilmington, and Rancho Park next to schools, senior centers, and homes?
Jack Eidt spoke with three major environmental justice advocates with experience working to protect communities from these health dangers.
Andrea Leon-Grossmann was a Southern California Organizer with Food and Water Watch and now works for AZUL. A resident of the LA neighborhood of Rancho Park, she has worked on the campaign for a just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy in Los Angeles. In 2016, Andrea co-authored a book called “Fracking: ¿Qué es y cómo evitar que acabe con México?” (“Fracking: What is it and how to ensure it doesn’t destroy Mexico”). The book is the foundation for Mexico’s legal fight against oil corporations.
Susan Gorman-Chang is a member of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council and leader for the community group Save Porter Ranch that has fought to expose the dangers to the community from the Aliso Canyon gas leak.
Marta Segura, Climate Law Institute Southern California Engagement Director, builds and strengthens partnerships to protect communities, their health and the environment from oil drilling, oppose oil and gas projects, and support the enforcement of environmental protections in Southern California.
Words from the Front was done by Alicia Rivera from Communities for a Better Environment. She spoke on recent fenceline air quality monitoring regulations for petroleum refineries proposed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
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Interview by Jack Eidt from SoCal 350 Climate Action and EcoJustice Radio.
Host and Engineer: JP Morris
Executive Producer: Mark Morris
Updated 21 February 2021
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