There’s an End in Sight for California’s Seemingly Unending Gas Leak

After releasing more than 2 million tons of methane above Los Angeles, SoCal Gas says it has the leak ‘temporarily controlled.’

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

Feb 12, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

The gas well that’s been spewing huge amounts of methane into Southern California’s air has been temporarily capped, the Southern California Gas Company said Thursday night.

“We have temporarily controlled the natural gas flow from the leaking well and begun the process of sealing the well and permanently stopping the leak,” Jimmie Cho, SoCalGas senior vice president of gas operations, said in a statement.

The announcement is the first sign that an end to a leak that’s emitted more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gases—the equivalent of putting half a million more passenger vehicles on the road for a year—is in sight.

The well still needs to be permanently sealed, which the company said will require injecting cement, which could take several days to complete.

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Thousands living near the well in the Porter Ranch community have fled the region to escape the smell and potential health effects of the leak. Los Angeles County health officials have said the invisible methane in the air above the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility poses no long-term human health risks. But the gas is treated with chemicals, and residents have reported headaches, nosebleeds, and nausea.

SoCal Gas is facing civil charges from parties such as the South Coast Air Quality Management District and criminal charges from L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, accusing the company of releasing air contaminants and neglecting to report the release of hazardous materials until three days after the leak began on Oct. 23.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the gas company has been ordered not to “remove, temporarily store, bury or raze anything within a 400-foot radius of the wellhead” so investigations into its actions can be made.