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Good news: The end of California’s massive, damaging Porter Ranch gas leak is finally in sight

Porter Ranch residents have had nosebleeds, headaches, and nausea for months.
Porter Ranch residents have had nosebleeds, headaches, and nausea for months.
David McNew/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The worst environmental disaster in the US since the BP oil spill might finally be ending.

Since October, a gas well near the Porter Ranch neighborhood in northern Los Angeles has been leaking, spewing methane, a greenhouse gas, into the air. So far, it's emitted more than 96,000 metric tons of methane, the equivalent of putting half a million more passenger vehicles on the road for a year.

The Southern California Gas Company announced Thursday it had plugged the leak temporarily, the first step toward a permanent fix:

That means residents of Porter Ranch might get some relief from nausea, headaches, and other symptoms caused by chemicals added to natural gas to give it its distinctive smell.

But the environmental damage will linger much longer. Methane is a powerful contributor to climate change — 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period — and methane emissions have caused about 25 percent of today's climate change, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, and the gas company faces criminal charges due to its delay in notifying state authorities about the leak as well as a civil suit from the state attorney general.

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