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SoCal Gas cited for 'public nuisance' over new leak at Aliso Canyon natural gas facility

SoCal Gas cited for 'public nuisance' over new leak at Aliso Canyon natural gas facility
Protesters stage a sit-in at the entrance to Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch in October, marking the two-year anniversary of the largest methane leak in U.S. history. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Air quality officials on Friday cited Southern California Gas Co. for a 50-minute gas leak at its Aliso Canyon storage facility earlier this week, accusing the utility of causing a public nuisance by exposing nearby residents to foul odors.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District said it received 15 odor complaints from residents in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles after the leak began at 4:55 p.m. Monday.

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A SoCal Gas methane monitor at the fence line of the facility measured concentrations of up to 66 parts per million — more than 30 times the typical level of 2 ppm, according to the air district.

The gas company maintains a website with real-time measures of methane from its fence-line monitors, but it was down during Monday’s leak. That prompted the air district on Thursday to require the company to provide all of its monitoring data from the day of the leak.

A spokesman for SoCal Gas said in an email Friday evening that the company had received the notice of violation and was reviewing it.

“It was widely felt and noticed in the community,” said Alexandra Nagy, an organizer with the environmental group Food & Water Watch. “The community just wants this shut down, and every moment it’s in operation is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Sam Atwood, an air district spokesman, said the leak occurred when a gasket on equipment used to treat the gas failed. SoCal Gas did not notify the agency of the leak until more than two hours after it began, according to the air district.

The Aliso Canyon facility was the site of an October 2015 well blowout that resulted in the largest methane leak in U.S. history.

The months-long leak forced thousands of families in the northwest San Fernando Valley from their homes, many complaining of nausea, nosebleeds and other health problems.

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