Southern California Gas Co., the owner of a natural gas storage facility that’s been spewing methane and other noxious gases since late October, is now facing criminal charges.
Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged the utility with three misdemeanor counts for each day it allegedly failed to alert authorities to the leak after it had been discovered, as well as a fourth misdemeanor count for the leak itself.
The utility could be fined $25,000 for each day it failed to report the leak, plus $1,000 for each day the leak has continued.
The leak, at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility outside Los Angeles, has been emitting copious amounts of methane, a gas that contributes heavily to rising global temperatures. The emissions also contain trace amounts of other harmful chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene.
Other odorants, which have been added to the natural gas to signal leaks, are making local residents sick. Residents in nearby towns have reported numerous instances of nausea, headaches, and vomiting, and two local schools have been evacuated because of the health risks.
In addition to the criminal charges, Southern California Gas Co. faces a host of civil suits, including suits from residents and business owners living in the nearby town of Porter Ranch and from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is suing the utility for causing a public nuisance.
- For a better understanding of what’s going on outside Los Angeles, particularly its environmental impact, read Vox’s explainer on the leak.
- Check out this map of just where the leaked gas is spreading.
- Read coverage from KPCC, the Southern California local NPR station, on the long-term health risks associated with the gas leak.