Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion Tuesday calling on Southern California Gas Co. to continue offering relocation services not only to residents of Porter Ranch affected by an ongoing natural gas leak, but to residents of neighboring communities.

Councilman Mitch Englander said there were fears that the Gas Co. would stop offering relocation services, especially with the announcement there may be an “end in sight” in the utility’s effort to cap the leaking well. He said the city is reminding the Gas Co. it is legally required to offer relocation services to residents “reasonably affected” by the gas leak.

“We again, the city attorney, Mike Feuer, stepped in and called them to remind them that they have this stipulated order,” Englander said. “They can’t stop. They have to continue relocating and working with people. Their response was, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll do that.”‘

Englander’s motion asked that the Gas Co. extend the relocation services to communities like Granada Hills, Northridge and Chatsworth — something the utility insisted it is already doing. According to the Gas Co., 10 percent of relocation, air purification and weatherization services it has provided have been for residents in those three areas.

Since the gas leak was discovered Oct. 23, more than 3,600 households have been temporarily relocated out of the area near the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility — at Gas Co. expense, according to Englander.

Gas Co. officials said Monday that a relief well being drilled at Aliso Canyon in an effort to cap the leak is nearing completion, but they warned it will still take time to finish the job.

According to SoCalGas, the relief well has reached a depth of about 8,400 feet and is about 200 feet away from its target — the well that has been leaking since Oct. 23. Gas Co. officials said that while the relief well is nearly completed, the final phase of extending it to intercept the leaking well, then drill into it, will take some time.

Gas Co. crews are planning to pump fluids and mud through the relief well and into the leaking one, plugging the leak.

“Our team of experts has been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week since we started the relief well operations, and we’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made so far,” according to Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity. “Our top priority remains the safety of those working on the site and the residents of the community.

“We have developed various contingency plans in case we encounter unexpected developments in the relief-well drilling process that could slow our current progress,” he said. “Our current schedule to control and stop the leak in February is consistent with the plan we have submitted to” the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

The company still hopes to have the operation completed by late February, or possibly sooner.

According to SoCalGas, after the flow of leaking gas is stopped using the fluids and mud, cement will be poured in to cut off the well from the storage reservoir, “stopping the leak at its source.”

Company officials noted that once the leak is plugged and the air clears, relocated residents will be able to return to their homes.

The City Council Tuesday also approved a resolutions supporting state bills aimed at creating better oversight and transparency around the operation of oil and gas storage facilities.

Englander also introduced a motion calling on the Los Angeles Sanitation Bureau to give refunds or adjust the billing for residents who have relocated out of their homes and are not using their sewer, trash collection and recycling services.

City News Service 

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