Southern California Gas Co. agreed Monday to extend the amount of time the relocated Porter Ranch-area residents – about 5,700 households – will have to move back into their homes once a protracted natural gas leak in the area has been fixed.
A previous agreement with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office called for residents to move back within 48 hours, which residents and some city officials complained was not enough time. The new agreement gives residents up to eight days.
City Attorney Mike Feuer said the agreement “will help residents resume their daily routines on schedules that work best for them.”
Councilman Mitch Englander, who represents the Porter Ranch area, called the previous 48-hour deadline “unreasonable and inhumane,” and thanked Feuer and his office “for their tireless work to negotiate a more compassionate plan for the safe return of relocated residents once the well is capped and verified.”
Gillian Wright, the Gas Co.’s vice president of customer services, said the company realizes the leak has been a disruption for residents and the utility “is pleased to offer more flexibility to support a smoother transition back home.”
Under the agreement, the Gas Co. will:
— notify the the State of California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources once the leak is fixed, and if DOGGR finds that the leak is plugged, the agency will confirm it in writing;
— give Porter Ranch residents who were relocated in hotels up to eight days or seven nights to move back to their homes;
— pay the rent and other costs, such as utilities and gardening service, for the remainder of the lease term of residents’ temporary housing;
— provide up to $500 in reimbursements for the moving expenses of residents who relocated to apartments or single family homes;
— decide on a case-by-case basis how to accommodate relocated residents with special circumstances, such as disabilities, with the Gas Co. also expected to consider issues raised by the City Attorney’s Office and allow for a mediation process to take place if necessary; and
— make reasonable reimbursements on the mileage expenses for the rest of the school year incurred by parents who transport their children to schools outside of the Porter Ranch area.
As of Friday, nearly 5,700 households had been relocated out of the area, at Gas Co. expense. The leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility was discovered Oct. 23. A relief well being dug in hopes of capping the leak is nearing completion, but it’s unclear exactly when the leak will be plugged.
Gas Co. officials have said the final stages of digging the relief well will take time because of the delicate nature of the work as it intercepts the leaking well.
County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who pushed for residents to be given more time to move home, said he and county health officials still aren’t satisfied with the new arrangement. He said the Department of Public Health is recommending that residents be given up to 30 days to move to ensure the effects of the massive leak have dissipated.
“Residents and school officials should have the confidence once the well is sealed that the area has been appropriately tested and assessed before the Gas Co. discontinues paying for relocation expenses,” Antonovich said. “These residents have been forced out of their homes and their children forced out of their schools. A 30-day return policy would be in the best interest of residents, students and schools.”
Antonovich asked that officials from the Gas Co. and county public health and fire departments provide an update to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
—Staff and wire reports
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