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California Governor Finally Declares State of Emergency Over Months-Long Gas Leak

The major environmental disaster has forced 2,300 families to leave their homes so far.

Image via Flickr user Scott L

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Wednesday over a scary gas leak in Porter Ranch, a town 25 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Methane gas has been pouring from the Aliso Canyon storage well since October 23 at a rate of nearly 70,000 pounds per hour, according to the recent measurements. Nearly 80,000 metric tons of methane have escaped the natural gas well so far.

Brown has ordered the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), which runs the well, to come up with a backup plan to stop the leak should its current strategy fail. Even if the utility company’s present plan succeeds, the leak will not be be plugged until late February or late March, the company says.

Infrared video of the Aliso Canyon gas leak, via Earthworks

Brown said his state would ensure that SoCalGas covers all expenses associated with the leak, without passing costs on to consumers. The governor also initiated emergency regulations for gas storage facilities, which involve more regular inspections and testing.

Experts are calling the gas leak the most devastating American environmental disaster since 2010’s BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Washington Post estimated in December that the 20-year impact of the greenhouse gases released by the accident are equal to the emissions of 7 million automobiles or six coal-fired power plants.

The gas leak has forced about 2,300 families to leave their homes, though a California court has estimated that 5,000 will evacuate before the emergency is over. CNN interviewed Porter Ranch resident Christy Rocco, who had to leave her home with her husband and two children in November after they came down with a mix of nosebleeds, headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems.

“It started just kind of being frantic and wondering why our house smelled like a propane tank for weeks on end—looking for it,” Rocco said. She wondered why the governor did not call a state of emergency “12 weeks ago.”

(Cover image via YouTube screen capture)

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