Have you heard about the BP spill on land? You’d think that you would have by now, considering that this spill is being viewed as one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history by some environmentalists, it’s a wonder that the majority of people haven’t heard about it.
In October of 2015 SoCalGas reported a leak from its Aliso Canyon storage well near the Los Angeles suburb of Porter Ranch. After many failed attempts to plug the leak and months where up to 100,000 pounds of natural gas per hour have been spewing into the air and into the surrounding residential area, a state of emergency was finally declared on January 6, 2016 by California Governor Jerry Brown. Considering the environmental and human health risks that a natural gas leak of this magnitude poses, it’s incredible a state of emergency wasn’t called sooner.
At this point, hundreds of residents have been relocated as crews continue to plug the leak. SoCal Gas has reiterated that the gas leak is not a risk to the public, but hundreds of residents have complained of headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, respiratory problems, not to mention the constant rotten egg smell that accompanies natural gas so as to warn people of its presence, due to it being a clear and odorless gas when found naturally. This leak has severely impacted hundreds of people’s daily lives.
Environmentally speaking, natural gas contains the potent greenhouse gas of methane, which is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to breaking down the ozone layer. Another issue that could arise is the very imminent risk of a massive fire occurring if a spark finds the leak, and with a well that is zero percent contained, it would create an even larger disaster.
The Environmental Defense Fund has used thermal photography and video to create a visible image of the gas plume and show its actual size, a link to the video can be found here.
Officials estimate that it could take as long as till March just to plug the leaking storage well, all while it will continue to spew natural gas. The main issue at the moment is plugging the leak, but once that task is completed, addressing the issue of how residents will be able to resettle after being displaced, counteracting the potential long-term health effect on residents, facing the long-term environmental effects, and holding SoCal Gas accountable for this disaster. These points have yet to be fully addressed, and consequences fully understood.
Written by Max Pivonka, ESLLC 2015-2016