Porter Ranch Well Capped, Real Fight Just Beginning

The four-month-long saga to cap the leaking gas well in Porter Ranch, California is finally almost over. On February 11, work crews punctured the well’s outer casing and began pumping the well with a compound that would temporarily seal it.

The well will be permanently sealed in the next few days, at which point the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) will inspect the well to ensure it is safely sealed.

This is tremendous news for all parties involved as stopping the gas flow was everyone’s first priority. However, this by no means closes the case on what happened in Porter Ranch.

The first major fight going forward will be over the relocation program the gas company initiated to help the residents of Porter Ranch get away from the effects of the leaking well. Initially, SoCalGas wanted to give 24 hours for people to return home, but that changed to seven nights and eight days when the collective response to the original deadline was unanimously negative.

The negative response largely stemmed from concerns over the safety of the area once the leak was capped. On Friday, US Senator Barbara Boxer of California called for an independent air quality study before the residents of Porter Ranch returned home.

Similarly, attorney Patricia Oliver of R. Rex Parris law firm wrote a letter to City Attorney Mike Feuer asking him to live up to his statements regarding his desire to see Porter Ranch residents return to a safe home and to take the actions necessary to ensure important concerns are addressed. In her letter, she outlined a few matters that must be addressed before Porter Ranch residents should feel safe enough to return home. The letter focused on testing that ensures gas has not been migrating underground.

Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was also quick to question whether Porter Ranch is safe enough for people to return.

Speaking on behalf of thousands of Porter Ranch residents, Mr. Kennedy raised concerns over the safety of the Santa Susana fault that begins east of Fillmore and runs into the San Fernando Valley, intersecting with all the natural gas injection wells located in the Aliso Canyon Underground Storage Facility. “SoCalGas must be forced to complete all repairs before forcing the residents of Porter Ranch to return,” Kennedy said.

SoCalGas maintains that the area is safe, citing a memorandum published on February 12 by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) that “measurements of exposures in the Porter Ranch area to volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylenes, and hexane, to date have been largely below Reference Exposure Levels set by OEHHA.”

Even if the area is completely safe, and residents return home in the quickest way possible, the fallout from the gas leak is just beginning. SoCalGas is facing lawsuits from the city, county, and state levels as well as civil claims. If you or someone you know has been affected by the gas leak, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact our attorneys to see how we can help.