Highlights from the Town Hall Meeting on Friday, January 22January 26, 2016
With new information coming out daily about the effects of the Porter Ranch gas leak, it’s difficult to stay up to date on developments. The town hall meeting organized by our firms on Friday, January 22 was an opportunity for residents of the affected area to come out and listen to our panel of experts report the most recent information.
The panel included Congressmen Brad Sherman and Steven Knight, environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., surgeon Bardia Anvar, veterinary toxicologist John Tegzes, attorney Patricia Oliver, real estate agent Danielle Rabadi, and Save Porter Ranch advocate Matt Pakucko. Robert Glassman, an attorney from Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, moderated the panel.
Mr. Glassman kicked off the night by introducing Patricia Oliver of R. Rex Parris Law Firm. She focused on the legal fight against SoCalGas, and broke down what our combined firms had thus far accomplished. Up to that point her work had been to ensure that federal agencies such as the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal resources (DOGGR), Air Quality Management District (AQMD), and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have been doing what they’re designed to do, protecting consumers. Her recent letter to the AQMD regarding the case they filed sought to hold the agency and SoCalGas accountable and bring to light evidence which suggests they hope to quickly settle against SoCalGas without holding them accountable for the leak.
The other key takeaway from Ms. Oliver’s speech regarded the processing of individual claims. The amount of claims filed has overwhelmed the courts, and in an attempt to streamline the process a single judge is being selected to adjudicate all the claims. Scheduling is also a major obstacle with so many plaintiffs, and until the logistics for handling them all is outlined nothing can move forward.
The Congressmen in attendance were the next members of the panel to speak. Congressman Sherman spoke first, and began with a history of the gas storage field that the leaking well belongs to. Congressman Sherman was adamant that the gas company needs to be held accountable at no expense to the consumer. He also made it clear that he would do everything in his power to ensure that the Aliso Canyon facility would remain closed until SoCalGas could prove that it is completely safe.
Congressman Knight reiterated many of the same points, but went a step further by issuing his personal cell phone number to those who might need the weight of a Congressman behind them to get a call back from any of the various groups and organizations the residents of Porter Ranch now regularly contact. His personal number is 661-450-7422, but he can also be reached at any of the numbers listed on his website.
The next member of the panel to speak was the evening’s keynote speaker, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. He focused on the political realities of the situation, and revealed that all the government agencies involved might not have the consumer’s best interest at heart. He, like Ms. Oliver, condemned the AQMD’s proposed settlement with SoCalGas, citing this as one of those instances where the consumer is not being placed first. He went on to accuse DOGGR, the CPUC, and even the governor himself of similarly not prioritizing the people affected by the disaster’s well-being. His portion of the meeting was eye opening, and we highly recommend that you watch it if you have the time:
Next to speak were the medical experts. The first physician to present was Dr. John Tegzes who is a board certified veterinary toxicologist. He used his time to focus on the effects the gas may have on animals, and what pet owners can do to keep their animals safe. The ideal situation, according to Dr. Tegzes, would be to remove the animals from areas affected by the leak entirely. However, he knows this is not feasible for every pet owner. For a person unable to move his or her pet, Dr. Tegzes recommended that they be closely monitored, with visits to the vet every six months for a full check up. This will not protect them from any potential long term effects, but will be ensure that should something arise pet owners will be able to do something about it.
After the animals were addressed, Dr. Bardia Anvar was called upon to address human health concerns. Dr. Anvar has been treating patients exposed to the gas leak for the past few months. He stressed that people should be getting out of areas affected by the leak because many of the symptoms people experience from the gas will go away once they’re no longer exposed to it. If you are unable to leave the affected areas, Dr. Anvar recommends you closely monitor your health, and if symptoms present themselves that you believe to be related to the leak be sure to see a doctor. Children are especially susceptible to the gas, and should be monitored closely. Although the full effects of the gas are still unknown, we do know that benzene interferes with cells that are consistently reproducing such as hair cells. Children are still developing, which makes the benzene particularly dangerous.
The evening’s final speaker was local real estate agent Danielle Rabadi. Ms. Rabadi is a local real estate expert who has been working with our firms as a relocation consultant. She acknowledged that the current real estate market is difficult because so many people are seeking short-term rentals. However, she did mention that SoCalGas is approving two month leases until March 31, and made it clear that if you are able to find a place to rent be sure to make a claim to SoCalGas so you don’t have to pay the lease. The long-term market has fewer certainties at this moment, and Ms. Rabadi urged patience on deciding about your home as the full effect on the housing market remains to be seen.
If you are interested in more information we recommend that you watch the video in its entirety. As the situation in Porter Ranch continues to evolve we will continue to post the latest information so that you can stay up to date.