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Gas Destruction

On February 18, SoCal Gas announced that it had permanently sealed the largest methane leak in US history – but not before thousands of Porter Ranch residents had been exposed to the leak for four months.

Some residents were evacuated, while others suffered with nausea, dizziness, nosebleeds and other physical illnesses related to the methane in the air.

“Nobody knew what was going on,” said Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council member Cheri Derohanian. “In fact, my 12-year-old twin girls, who were seventh graders at Porter Ranch Community School, were running the mile daily, and I was wondering why a school would let kids do that when everyone smells gas in the community. It was frustrating, it was frightening.”

One of the most frustrating aspects of the incident for residents was how preventable the leak was from the beginning.

“This well that leaked, had a safety valve on it that was taken off by choice,” said Dr. Loraine Lundquist from the CSUN Institute for Sustainability. “If that safety valve had been in place, it would have stopped the leak within hours.”

The leak has led to a lawsuit by residents, against SoCal Gas, that some experts believe will take years to complete.

“We’re just trying to help [Porter Ranch residents] band together to be able to advocate for themselves and get the compensation they deserve,” Frantz Law Group attorney Regina Bagdasarian said. “We want [SoCal Gas] to be responsible, not just by acknowledging responsibility, but by compensating people for the harms they suffered.”

Although it’s been almost a month since the leak was sealed, the problems for residents are not over. Some residents have started moving back, but a judge recently ordered SoCal Gas to pay expenses until mid-March for those who want more time. This week, crews have begun inspecting and cleaning up Porter Ranch playgrounds after spots of sticky and potentially toxic substances were found.

And some believe, as big of a problem as the gas leak was, it was just a small part of an even bigger issue.

“We are suffering from this incredibly urgent problem of imminent climate change, that literally does threaten to destabilize human civilization within the course of less than a century,” Lundquist said.

There may be an upside to all this, however – as some believe that the Porter Ranch gas leak offers an opportunity for change.

“I think people have to be their own advocate,” Bagdasarian said.

“This is an excellent time for residents of Los Angeles to band together, and demand that our city pledge to go to 100 percent renewable energy,” Lundquist said.

Moderator: Jasmin Dalton

Anchor: October Primavera

Producer: Jasmin Dalton

Social Media Editors: Anna Logan and October Primavera

Reporters: Harry Abelson, Jasmin Dalton, Glenna Dixon, Kiara Draper, Anna Logan and October Primavera

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