A $119.5 million settlement agreement was announced Wednesday to resolve claims by several governmental bodies stemming from the massive Aliso Canyon methane leak — the biggest in U.S. history — that sent more than 100,000 tons of natural gas into neighborhoods around Porter Ranch.
According to a statement released by Southern California Gas Co. just before the start of a news conference to detail the agreement, the settlement with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, the County of Los Angeles, the California Attorney General’s office and the California Air Resources Board resolves “all outstanding claims by those government bodies against the company related to the 2015-2016 natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.”
“Under the terms of the $119.5 million settlement agreement, SoCalGas will, among other things, reimburse city, county and state governments for costs associated with their response to the leak; establish a program with the California Air Resources Board to mitigate the methane emissions from the leak; and fund local environmental benefit projects to be administered by the government parties,” according to the statement.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Mitch Englander and county Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis were scheduled to discuss the settlement at a 10 a.m. news conference.
The gas stemmed from an underground storage facility owned by the company.
Officials said the invisible gas was flowing for about four months in what is being called the worst methane leak in history. An estimated 8,000 residents evacuated their homes, and people from the area said they experienced health issues such as headaches, nosebleeds and nausea.
A class-action suit involving around 9,000 plaintiffs has been filed again SoCalGas. People affiliated with the suit said they resented reports of a settlement since it indicated that a state investigation of the leak will end even though, they claim, the leaking has not stopped.
Bret Lane, the utility’s president and chief operating officer, said SoCalGas “is delivering on our commitment to the governor and the people of California to fully mitigate the methane emissions from the leak at our Aliso Canyon facility.”
“The settlement will also help California meet its ambitious climate goals by advancing projects that capture methane from dairy farms and waste and convert that energy into renewable natural gas for use in transportation,” he said. “SoCalGas is pleased to have worked with the Attorney General’s Office, the Air Resources Board, the Los Angeles City Attorney and the County of Los Angeles to resolve these matters for the people of California.”
The gas leak, which was discovered in October 2015 and continued emanating methane until February 2016, poured an estimated 109,000 tons of methane into the air and forced an estimated 15,000 residents to temporarily relocate.
Limited operations resumed at the facility in late July 2017 with the blessing of state regulators. Efforts by Los Angeles County officials to block the resumed operations failed in court.
Last year, SoCalGas reached an $8.5 million settlement with South Coast Air Quality Management District over the leak, which included $1 million in funding for an SCAQMD-sponsored health study on the impacts of the leak, although county health officials said that $35 million to $40 million would be needed for an adequate study.