Aliso Canyon Gas Leak Lawsuit

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Aliso Canyon Gas Leak

In October 2015, the largest methane gas leak in United States history was discovered at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility located north of Los Angeles. The gas leak wasn’t capped until February 2016, causing nearby residents to flee the area while 109,000 metric tons of natural gas spewed into the atmosphere.

Spikes in methane gas, formaldehyde, and benzene were detected by emissions tests in the Porter Ranch area, just miles from the Aliso Canyon facility and where more than 7,000 people call home. These gases are known to cause cancer, and dozens of cases of illnesses have been reported by local residents.

California Governor Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency three months after the leak was detected, outlining actions the state was taking to ensure the health and safety of residents would be protected; but the leak wouldn’t be capped for another month following the emergency proclamation.

The Aliso Canyon facility is the largest natural gas storage site in the West. It is operated by Southern California Gas Company, which paid out $8.5 million in settlements to the regional air quality control board in February 2017. A portion of that settlement — just $1 million — was set aside for a health impact study to see if there is a link between the gas leak and cases of cancer and other illnesses.

Residents of the area, however, say their health problems started before the 2015 gas leak, and only escalated once the leak was discovered. Emissions records obtained by local media outlets show elevated levels of formaldehyde were detected in the Porter Ranch area between 2000 and 2014. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen.

Those affected by this historic leak want answers and justice for their suffering. Residents have experienced illnesses ranging from headaches, nose bleeds, extreme fatigue, and skin rashes to dangerous and rare forms of cancer.

Since the leak, SoCalGas has said they have met and even exceeded the necessary requirements imposed by the state of California to cap the leak and ensure safety for nearby residents. Aliso Canyon was back online in summer 2017, but shortly after operations were resumed, one-third of the wells had to be taken offline again due to a dangerous buildup of gas. On Friday, Dec. 1, SoCalGas sent a notice to Porter Ranch residents alerting them that increased levels of methane had once again been detected at the facility.

Lawsuits being filed

Porter Ranch residents and others who live near the facility are beginning to file lawsuits against SoCalGas, accusing the company of negligently operating its gas storage facility and endangering the health and safety of thousands of people.

If you lived near the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility between 2015 and 2016 and were affected by the largest gas leak in US history, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call the experienced lawyers and attorneys at Schmidt National Law Group today at 800-631-5656 to see if you qualify for a lawsuit. There may be significant cash payouts in the form of settlements or verdicts for those affected.

Residents Report Cancer, Other Illnesses

Residents who live around the Aliso Canyon facility have reported a number of illnesses following the gas leak that began in October 2015. Buzzfeed, CBS Los Angeles, and other local media outlets have featured a number of residents who developed an array of illnesses which they contribute to the leak.

Some reports indicate that these illnesses, which include rare forms of cancer, painful skin rashes, and severe coughs, started even before the leak was officially found in October 2015, and may be corroborated by emissions records that show elevated levels of dangerous gases in the area as early as 2000.

A report by CBS Los Angeles indicates at least six teachers working an elementary school located a few miles from Aliso Canyon were diagnosed with various forms of cancer since 2007. Teachers reportedly smelled gas in their classrooms long before the major gas leak was discovered.

Buzzfeed highlights the stories of seven different people and their family members who all developed illnesses, they say, as a result of the leak. Aliya Hill, who was just seven years old at the time the leak was discovered, developed a rare form of leukemia which is now, thankfully, in remission. Susie Kimmel, 62, who taught at the elementary school near Aliso Canyon, was diagnosed with bladder and bone cancer in September 2016 — nearly one year after the leak was discovered. She lost her battle with cancer in May 2017.

Some of the symptoms and illnesses reported by area residents include:

  • Cancer
  • Headaches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Severe coughing
  • Nose bleeds
  • Skin rashes
  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

No ‘Official Link’

While no “official link” between these illnesses and the Aliso Canyon gas leak has been determined, both residents and officials want the facility shut down.

SoCalGas on the other hand, believes it has gone above and beyond to fix the fallout from the gas leak. In a letter sent to area residents, the company wrote:

“This is to let you know that SoCalGas has completed the steps necessary to safely begin injections at our Aliso Canyon storage facility and has started the process to resume limited injection operations. SoCalGas must begin injections to comply with the CPUC directive to maintain sufficient natural gas inventories at Aliso Canyon to support the reliability of the region’s natural gas and electricity systems.”

The letter continued:

“State regulators have confirmed Aliso Canyon is safe to operate. SoCalGas has worked diligently to meet, and in many cases, exceed the requirements of the State’s year-and-a-half long safety review.”

Who Is Affected?

Residents living in the immediate area surrounding the Aliso Canyon storage site have been most affected by the gas leak; this includes the Porter Ranch community. Due its nature, gas can permeate large areas without being detected by the naked eye. This means residents outside the immediate area could potentially have been affected by the leak.

Area resident Andrew Krowne, whose wife and kids developed headaches and nosebleeds following the leak, programmed an app that allows people to self-report health problems that developed during or after the leak. The app, called Environmental Health Tracker, launched in October 2017 and by the following month, 1,400 reports of health symptoms had been submitted by 100 users.

A screenshot from Google Maps shows Porter Ranch (outlined in the middle) where the gas leak occurred and the surrounding area.

About SoCalGas

Southern California Gas is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution company, delivering energy to nearly 22 million residents living in over 500 communities. SoCalGas services residents throughout Central and Southern California, covering an area of about 20,000 square miles from Visalia to the Mexican border.

The company is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, a mammoth energy company based in San Diego. SoCalGas has been in operation for 150 years, and claims to be a “responsible and engaged environmental leader, employer, and neighbor.”

This claim was challenged by regulating authorities, who filed a lawsuit against the company in January 2016 over the Aliso Canyon gas leak, as well as the residents of Porter Ranch, who have begun filing lawsuits of their own.

$8.5M Settlement — Is It Enough?

In February 2017, SoCalGas agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the regulating authority that oversees the gas company. The settlement resolved emissions-related fees and also earmarked $1 million for an impact study — though residents and health officials say this is grossly insufficient for a comprehensive health study.

While some health officials blame odorants added to the gas for health problems that developed during the gas leak, pollution monitoring detected several different carcinogenic gases in the air surrounding the facility. A comprehensive health study would help answer questions about the link between the gas leak and the spike in illnesses.

Residents who developed these health problems not only want answers, they want justice for the suffering they believe was caused by the historic gas leak and SoCalGas’ potential negligence. That is why residents are filing lawsuits against the gas company in an effort to recoup losses from medical bills and lost wages.

If you were affected by the largest gas leak in US history, call Schmidt National Law Group today at 800-631-5656 to see if you qualify for a potential Aliso Canyon Gas Leak Lawsuit.

Sources:

CBS Los Angeles. “Terminal Cancer Patient On : ‘I Think They’re Lying To People.’” Published May 23, 2017. Retrieved from:

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2017/05/23/cancer-patient-aliso-canyon-leak/

SoCalGas. “Aliso Canyon Update.” Retrieved from:

http://links.mkt2172.com/servlet/MailView?ms=MTE1OTY1ODUS1&r=MjEyMDIwNDU5MTE5S0&j=MTIyMDAwNDUzOQS2&mt=1&rt=3

Office of Governor Jerry Brown. “Governor Brown Issues Order On Aliso Canyon Gas Leak.” Published January 6, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=19264

Buzzfeed news. “Mysterious Illnesses Are Plaguing People In California After A Massive Gas Leak.” By Jim Dalrymple II. Published Dec. 2, 2017. Retrieved from:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimdalrympleii/mysterious-illnesses-are-plaguing-people-after-a-massive?utm_term=.qo2qrGOEGG#.qn5br3Yx33

Los Angeles Times. “Southern California Gas to pay $8.5 million to settle lawsuit over Aliso Canyon leak.” By Tony Barboza. Published Feb. 8, 2017. Retrieved from:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-gas-leak-settlement-20170208-story.html

Los Angeles Times. “Porter Ranch residents informed of brief surge in methane levels at Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.” By Emily Alpert Reyes. Published Dec. 2, 2017. Retrieved from:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-aliso-canyon-20171202-story.html

SoCalGas website. “About SoCalGas.” Retrieved from: https://www.socalgas.com/about-us/company-profile

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