FutureStructure

Obama Signs Preventive Gas Leak Measure

In the wake of one of the worst gas leaks in the nation, President Obama has signed the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016.

by Dana Bartholomew, Daily News, Los Angeles / June 23, 2016
This December 2015 photo shows a methane leak in California’s Aliso Canyon. Flickr/Earthworks

(TNS) — With a flourish of his pen Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed a law that aims to prevent a natural gas leak like one that caused thousands of sickened residents to flee their homes around Porter Ranch.

The bill by Rep. Steve Knight intends to stymie future leaks at natural gas storage facilities across the nation.

“I saw firsthand the pain that families in Porter Ranch went through during the gas leak, and I want to ensure that such suffering doesn’t happen in the future,” said Knight, R-Palmdale, whose district represents Porter Ranch, in a statement. “This law will go a long way to protect communities across the country from that type of disaster.”

The nearly four-month gas leak north of Porter Ranch spewed almost 100,000 metric tons of methane from a ruptured well at the 3,600-acre Aliso Canyon storage facility run by the Southern California Natural Gas Co.

The worst natural gas leak in the nation from Oct. 23 to Feb. 18 displaced two schools, forced the evacuation of 8,000 families and generated thousands of sickness complaints.

Residents complained of nausea, nosebleeds, headaches and other illnesses attributed to the noxious fumes.

The Aliso Canyon gas leak may have also contributed to climate change. Its methane release — considered 84 times more potent in warming the earth’s atmosphere over a 20-year span than carbon dioxide — cranked out the global warming equivalent of 1,735,404 cars in a year.

During the rupture, Knight had testified in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railways, Pipelines and Hazardous Material on behalf of residents of Porter Ranch and the need to create safety standards to prevent future gas leaks.

His legislation now requires federal regulation of similar underground gas storage fields.

Last February, the former Los Angeles policeman had introduced HR 4429, known as the Natural Gas Leak Prevention Act, which would require the secretary of transportation to issue adequate safety standards for gas fields across the nation.

His bill was then merged into a bipartisan bill signed by Obama Wednesday known as the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016.

Before its passage, there had been no federal regulations for gas storage facilities.

“I am pleased and proud that this historic effort to increase safety at natural gas storage facilities was signed into law today,” said Knight, whose 25th Congressional District represents parts of the Antelope, San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys. “I applaud my colleagues in Congress and the President on supporting this crucial measure.”

Meanwhile, a state bill that would provide relief to victims of catastrophic pollution like the Aliso Canyon gas leak was passed Wednesday by an Assembly judiciary committee.

The bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto would bar polluters from conditioning settlements on victims agreeing that a polluter has the right to pollute again in the future.

The measure known as AB 2748 would also extend the current statute of limitations for civil actions from two to three years for unknown or new injuries and exposures to a hazardous material or toxic substances. It also provides victims of environmental disasters better access to remedies available through our judicial system, according to the assemblyman’s office.

“This legislation will protect the victims of environmental disasters and make sure they are not taken advantage of by gross polluters who harm their health and community,” said Gatto, D-Burbank, in a statement. “The residents of Porter Ranch have made us aware of alarming instances where SoCal Gas conditioned relocation reimbursements upon the recipient’s waiver of all future claims against them.

“That is unconscionable.”

©2016 the Daily News (Los Angeles) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.