Historic ‘Aliso Canyon’ Settlement Signed
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Feb. 1, 2022
BREAKING: Historic ‘Aliso Canyon’ Settlement Signed
Will Advance Communities’ Right to Know 6 Years After the Largest Toxic Gas Blowout in U.S. History
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Today, the environmental health watchdog Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced it has reached a legally binding, court-enforceable settlement with Southern California Gas (subsidiary of Sempra Energy), after the company’s four month long methane blowout rocked San Fernando Valley, California and exposed nearby residents to a suite of toxic gases including benzene, which is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm, six years ago.
The new settlement mandates fence line benzene monitoring at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility and near real-time text messages and email warning alerts for all residents in the surrounding area in the event of another gas leak.
What was initially reported as a small leak at an underground natural gas storage field turned out to be the largest gas leak in U.S. history. Residents of Porter Ranch, located directly downwind and adjacent to the storage field, suffered the brunt of exposure to a cocktail of noxious gases. At the time of the blowout, residents were not notified about the hazardous exposures until weeks later. Residents of Porter Ranch were aware of and spoke out against pollution from the Aliso Canyon facility for years even before the historic 2015 blowout.
Today some residents continue to suffer from nosebleeds, dizziness, respiratory problems, and cancer.
In 2014, CEH had begun working with Porter Ranch residents through Save Porter Ranch on the development of a health study and community air monitoring project to determine the extent of the risks from the facility, but the blowout began in the midst of that planning. In 2016, CEH joined a lawsuit against SoCalGas, the operator of Aliso Canyon, asserting that the company violated California law by failing to warn residents about exposure to its toxic emissions.
“This settlement is long overdue and will require SoCalGas to send real-time text and email warnings to residents like me concerned about future emissions and blowouts of poisonous gases, but it does not erase the health and environmental impacts our community has suffered and continues to suffer,” said Kyoko Hibino, Co-Founder and Director of Save Porter Ranch.
Residents are still calling for the natural gas storage facility to be shut down, and Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in 2019 that he wanted to fast-track the shutdown. The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has said however, that the Aliso Canyon facility will be closed no sooner than 2027 — or as late as 2035. Despite widespread opposition from residents, organizations, and elected officials, the PUC recently decided to allow SoCalGas to pressurize the field with more gas.
“This signed agreement is a major step in making the polluter responsible for fence line benzene monitoring, and ensuring residents’ right to know if and when they are being exposed to benzene,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, Director of the Illegal Toxic Threats Program at CEH. “It is time to leave polluting fossil fuels in the past and embrace a healthier and more just future for all.”