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Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council Advocates for Residents
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City Council Hearing December 1, 2015

GAS. Natural gas. Methane and Mercaptan. It has been leaking inexorably from a shallow leak in a well on the SoCalGas Aliso Canyon storage field since October 23. The smell of natural gas has permeated Porter Ranch for a month depending upon which way the wind is blowing. The Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council heard complaints about the gas early on and has been working to bring in the right governmental authorities to address the leak and to provide information on the leak to the community as soon as it becomes available.

The leak itself is believed to be around 500 feet below the surface of a well that is about 8,500 feet deep; hence the term “shallow”. The wellhead is located 1,200 feet above homes and methane being lighter than air, floats up when it comes in contact with air. Unfortunately, the odorant, mercaptan, is not lighter than air, and it descends into the community as the suspected cause of people getting sick with nosebleeds, nausea and more. While the methane may not be causing current health issues, the sheer volume of methane that has escaped is cause for concern, as it equals one quarter the amount of methane emissions in the entirety of California.

The Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council is a board of volunteers, elected by the community and officially certified by the City of Los Angeles to increase the community’s influence with City lawmakers and departments and to improve Porter Ranch. The board is tasked with representing the community in a neutral manner, which includes everyone from those who are sick to SoCalGas itself. That in and of itself has been a very complex issue, because members of the PRNC live and work in this community and are feeling the effects of the gas leak just like the rest of the community.



The Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council took a leadership position in understanding the leak, taking SoCalGas to task, and communicating with the community. A week after the leak began the PRNC dedicated its meeting to the gas leak, calling all parties to the table in front of the public. This gave SoCalGas and government officials a chance to hear the public’s concerns and questions firsthand. At the PRNC’s insistence, two parties who had not been part of the response team were present: County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health and the State of California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). Up to that time they had not been brought in as County Fire had not yet deemed it necessary.

The PRNC has been hearing and voicing community concerns about air monitoring. They have asked for 24 hour monitoring to provide a more accurate representation of methane and mercaptan concentrations in the ever changing wind as a more effective measurement tool than the current twice a day monitoring. The Board is further concerned about what effects the odor mitigation efforts might have on public health.

The PRNC took a tour of the SoCalGas facility, has taken efforts to understand the gas injection and withdrawal process and disseminate information regularly to residents. More importantly, the PRNC was the first to ask SoCalGas to provide claims information and pay for relocating residents suffering health issues resulting from the leak.

"I feel we have been doing a great job getting our stakeholders access to SoCalGas as well as people that can effect change and give them the answers they need as well be an advocate for them. We are all struggling to deal with the impacts of this leak and to understand why it is taking so long. Although we are not in a position to fix the problem, we will continue to give voice to the challenges the community has and is enduring every day here in Porter Ranch." PRNC President Paula Cracium.

It should be noted that most of the board members are fully employed at other jobs, but have been spending countless hours working to advocate for the community. The PRNC will hold another Gas Leak Forum in place of its annual holiday party on December 2, 6pm at the In Christ Community Church, 19514 Rinaldi St, Porter Ranch.

Among the many topics to be discussed is the integrity of the remaining 115 wells in the SoCalGas storage facility. PRNC Vice President Pat Pope called this to the attention of the County Board of Supervisors, “the wells were put in place over 50 years ago, have withstood two earthquakes, and will likely be strained by higher pressures generated by the new turbines that are being installed.” The leaking well was inspected just last year. This incident shines a light on the validity of SoCalGas’ plan to inspect all the wells over a six year period. Serious consideration may need to be given to a much more rapid timeframe along with retirement and replacement of existing wells.

For more information on the meeting and who to contact about the gas leak, see: PRNC.org. For regular incident updates: https://www.facebook.com/PorterRanchNC

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The Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council is an organization that is officially certified by the City of Los Angeles to increase our influence with City lawmakers and departments to improve our community.

The PRNC came about as a result of Los Angeles City Charter Reform and interested stakeholders in our community. The Board is elected by stakeholders and holds monthly meetings, usually on the first Wednesday of the month. The agenda is emailed to those who subscribe (see the green box in the upper corner), on our website here and posted at 11280 Corbin Avenue, Northridge, CA 91326 on a bulletin board facing Corbin street.

The Board is comprised of volunteers who want to help you make Porter Ranch a better place to live, work and grow. We can't do it for you, but we can do it with you.

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