State regulators ask SoCal Gas for detailed timeline to fix Porter Ranch leak

Dennis Arriola, president and chief executive of Southern California Gas Co., visits the utility's Aliso Canyon facility in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

State regulators Thursday ordered Southern California Gas Co. to provide detailed plans and schedules on how it will plug a natural gas leak that has sickened and displaced scores of San Fernando Valley residents.

The utility has come under fire for its handling of the leak, drawing lawsuits, a citation from air quality regulators over the odor and sharply worded rebukes from officials across the region.

But Steve Bohlen, the state’s outgoing Oil & Gas Supervisor, said Southern California Gas Co. has fully complied with previous orders issued by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.


The division’s latest directive, he said, simply “puts in writing some issues that we are directing the company to do that we have discussed with them and they have agreed to.”

SoCal Gas detected the leak Oct. 23 at its Aliso Canyon facility in a pipe casing a few hundred feet below the surface of a well. Gas has been flowing into the ground and seeping up, generating a rotten odor and reports of nausea, headaches and nosebleeds among residents of nearby Porter Ranch. Hundreds of residents have relocated as a result.

Public health officials have said that the gas being released is mostly methane, which is not dangerous and does not pose long-term health risks. But residents have criticized the gas company, calling it slow to act.

This week, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced he was suing Southern California Gas Co. over how it has handled the incident.

After unsuccessful attempts to plug the leak by pumping fluid into the well, the company is now trying to drill a relief well. Workers would then seal off the leaking well and plug it permanently with concrete.

Thursday’s emergency order requires SoCal Gas to “prepare and deliver” an “updated detailed schedule for the completion of relief well” by Monday. It also calls for a schedule outlining when other tasks will be completed in preparation for a second relief well.

The utility must also produce a list of the ways it could “plug and abandon” the leaking well once a relief well is in place, and must work “expeditiously and aggressively” to capture as much leaking gas as possible.

Bohlen said it did not appear as though SoCal Gas was guilty of any violations in connection with the leak, but added that the division would do an “in-depth analysis once the leak is closed.”

“All of our energies are going into getting the well sealed,” he said. “This is not a simple leak at all.”

Twitter: @bymattstevens