Porter Ranch Gas Leak Lawsuit

porter ranch gas leak

Flickr photo courtesy of Scott L

A growing number of residents in the Porter Ranch community have made the decision to participate in a mass toxic tort lawsuit against Sempra Energy and its subsidiary, Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) for injuries and damages caused by the gas leak in nearby Aliso Canyon.

We have expanded this lawsuit to residents of Chatsworth, Granada Hills and Northridge, in addition to Porter Ranch. Any residents in these cities have a potential claim against SoCalGas for any injuries and damages.

The Porter Ranch gas leak lawsuit claims that SoCalGas was negligent when it failed to prevent the gas leak from occurring and has demonstrated blatant disregard for public health by failing to abate the ongoing danger to local residents and environmental harm.

What is the Porter Ranch Gas Leak?

On October 23, 2015, SoCalGas employees discovered an active gas leak hundreds of feet underground near a well called SS-25 (Standard Sesnon 25). According to the LA Weekly, the workers left the site and came back the next morning to fix the leak, but failed. Despite several attempts to stem the flow, gas continued out of the well and toward Porter Ranch. Area residents who could smell the gas were reporting illness and began to complain, but it took roughly two weeks for the media to focus on the issue.

Thousands of Porter Ranch residents have been forced to evacuate their homes due to the health dangers from gas inhalation. Families have had their lives completely uprooted, as they have been living in hotels for weeks, while their children have been redirected to other schools out of the Porter Ranch area.

SoCalGas has failed to provide residents with necessary information regarding the possible health concerns they face as a result of the gas leak.

Natural gas is odorless, so the gas company adds what is called ‘Scentinel T-50,’ which contains tetrahydrothiophene (“THT”) and t-butyl mercaptan. These chemicals are responsible for the sulphuric, rotten egg smell that Porter Ranch residents have been exposed to.

The Porter Ranch Gas Leak Has Caused Some Residents to Experience Short Term Health Effects, Including:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory Problems
  • Nosebleeds (prevalent among children)
  • Rashes and Other Skin Issues
  • Ear Aches
  • Eye Irritation

Porter Ranch residents who are cancer survivors have cause for concern—benzene, which is a known carcinogen, is found in trace amounts of natural gas. Other residents that have preexisting health conditions have seen their symptoms become more pronounced as a result of inhaling the natural gas. Pronounced symptoms have been reported among Porter Ranch residents with asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

How Did the Porter Ranch Gas Leak Happen?

Gas leaks are not altogether uncommon, but the Porter Ranch gas leak is an unprecedented catastrophe due to SoCalGas’ unsuccessful attempt to stop the leak in the months following its detection. While the cause of the leak is still under investigation, it has been reported by a number of media outlets that in 1979, SoCalGas removed a vital safety valve that could have been used to simply shut off the flow of gas to the well.

Why?

SoCalGas has said the safety valve wasn’t needed because the SS-25 well was not deemed a “critical well.” A well is designated as critical when it is within 100 feet of a school or a road, or within 300 feet of a home. The gas leak in Aliso Canyon is roughly a mile away from residences in Porter Ranch.

Had SS-25 been labeled a critical well, the safety valve would have been a requirement and this disaster could have been easily prevented.

Aliso Canyon Oil and Gas History

  • 1938: Oil is discovered in Aliso Canyon. The Paul J. Getty-owned Tidewater Associated Oil Company produces oil and gas at the Aliso Canyon site for decades.
  • 1953: The SS-25 (Standard Sesnon 25) well is drilled at Aliso Canyon site. Many of the 115 wells on the site are also drilled at this time. SS-25 goes into operation a year later. Its pipes have not since been replaced (61 years-old).
  • 1968: Firefighters worked for six days to put out an oil-fed blaze.
  • Early 1970’s: Tidewater Associated Oil Company sells Aliso Canyon site to Pacific Lighting Corp. after the site ceases to produce.
  • 1973: Pacific Lighting Corp. turns the site into a gas storage facility, a common use for depleted oil fields. It is one of the biggest storage sites in the country.
  • 1975: Natural gas-fed fire sends flames 100 feet high. It takes firefighters 10 days to extinguish. Porter Ranch community is too far away from the flames to be affected.
  • 1979: The pipes on SS-25 are upgraded. SoCalGas (Sempra Energy subsidiary) tells California regulators that a safety valve on the well was replaced during the upgrade.
  • October 23, 2015: SoCalGas workers detect gas leak in pipe casing a few hundred feet underground. Gas flows freely into the ground and seeps up into the atmosphere.
  • December 29, 2015: In a meeting with the Porter Ranch Community Advisory Committee, SoCalGas executive Rodger Schwecke says the company never replaced SS-25s safety valve, as the company had previously told California regulators. The well was not deemed a “critical well,” because it wasn’t within 100 feet of a road or park, or within 300 feet of homes, per state law. Many petroleum experts have said the Porter Ranch gas leak could have been prevented if the safety valve had been replaced.

Environmental Impact of Porter Ranch Gas Leak

Methane is the main component of natural gas. A powerful short-term climate forcer with over 80-times the warming power of carbon dioxide within the first 20 years after its release, methane is estimated to be leaking from the Aliso Canyon well at a rate of about 62 million standard cubic feet per day. The daily leakage carries the same 20-year climate impact as driving 7 million cars a day.

The tracker above, provided by the Environmental Defense Fund, is a real time estimate of just how much pollution is being emitted from what has turned into one of the largest U.S. natural gas leaks ever recorded.

The Porter Ranch gas leak serves as an example of the risk posed to communities as the infrastructure of natural gas facilities age. More than anything, this disaster is a sobering reminder of how necessary it is to have regulations in place to ensure that gas remains in the pipeline, not in the air we breathe.

What Happens Next?

The dangerous gas has been leaking from the Aliso Canyon site since October. Officials from SoCalGas estimate that the gas will continue to leak until late February 2016, possibly even late March.

After weeks of demands by local residents, Governor Jerry Brown issued a State of Emergency to address the Porter Ranch gas leak on January 6, 2016. Unlike other State of Emergency issuances, Governor Brown didn’t suspend state laws or commit more resources to contain the environmental disaster. Instead, Brown said that SoCalGas will be responsible for bearing all the related expenses to the Porter Ranch gas leak.

Governor Brown also ordered emergency regulations requiring SoCalGas and other operators to, among other things:

  • Conduct daily inspections of natural gas wells using infrared leak-detection technology
  • Verify the integrity of natural gas wells
  • Measure gas flow and pressure
  • Begin regular testing of safety valves
  • Draft risk management plan to examine pipe corrosion potential and other safety issues

Filing a Porter Ranch Gas Leak Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or damages stemming from the Porter Ranch gas leak, please get in touch with us. Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman is currently evaluating Porter Ranch claims at no cost or obligation to you.

Even if you have not been physically harmed by the Porter Ranch gas leak, you may be entitled to damages stemming from economic losses and the likely diminished value of your home.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is This a Class Action Lawsuit?

A Porter Ranch gas leak class action lawsuit was filed and is ongoing but the Kennedy legal team is only accepting individual cases at this time.

The class action lawsuit was filed on December 2, 2015 and seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages for Porter Ranch residents as well as an injunction that would include “provisions for further ongoing monitoring of plaintiffs’ property and potential remediation by defendant.”

The team of law firms headed by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. then filed the first personal injury Porter Ranch gas leak lawsuit on behalf of the Katz Family. The family is taking legal action because SoCalGas has not stepped up to relocate the family, address their medical needs, or compensate them for their financial losses as a result of SoCalGas’ negligence. The entire family is experiencing severe health issues as a result of the leak.

Residents of Porter Ranch are encouraged to contact our firm ASAP so that they may also be represented and seek compensation for the damages they have incurred since the gas leak began.

The law firms representing Porter Ranch gas leak victims are committed to protecting the rights of each individual that decides to file suit against SoCalGas and its parent company, Sempra Energy. The law firms are filing individual cases as part of a mass toxic tort litigation wherein the particulars of each individual case will be taken into consideration.

What is a Mass Toxic Tort?

In mass toxic tort litigation, a single attorney or a group of attorneys represent many injured parties in individual cases. An investigation conducted by one attorney can be shared among all of the individual cases. Furthermore, a network of attorneys are able to pool together resources, information and ideas, all in the name of ensuring that each individual receives a fair settlement for their injuries or damages.

Compensation that is recovered in mass tort litigation is awarded to each plaintiff individually, whereas in a class action lawsuit, compensation is split between all of the members of the class (or group).

How Do I Know if My Home is Affected by the Gas Leak?

If you have smelled gas or suffered various health issues, the value of your home will likely suffer too. Each situation is unique but under these circumstances, it is better to get in touch with us as soon as possible to protect your rights.

What is the Environmental Impact of the Porter Ranch Gas Leak?

While the leak will eventually be stopped, the devastating effects of this environmental catastrophe will be felt for years to come. Below is an Environmental Defense Fund breakdown of just how damaging the leak is:

Emissions Comparison Chart

If I Have to Relocate, Am I Still Eligible to Participate in the Porter Ranch Gas Leak Lawsuit?

Yes. You can relocate and still participate in the Porter Ranch gas leak lawsuit. We highly recommend that those affected by the leak find suitable lodging until officials have deemed it safe to return to their homes

Do I Need to See a Doctor?

We highly recommend that Porter Ranch residents seek medical attention and get evaluated by a physician. Try to be as meticulous as possible by telling your doctor about all of the symptoms you have been experiencing. By doing this, you will be documenting how your health has been affected by the leak. Documenting your health issues is very helpful and will strengthen your claim. Most people who have been affected by the gas leak in Porter Ranch have experienced dizziness, nose bleeds, headaches and nausea.

What Will the Porter Ranch Gas Leak Do to the Value of My Home?

In these situations, it is common to expect some decline in home values. It remains to be seen just how severe the effect on property values will be in the Porter Ranch community. Any loss of value in home sales will be considered in the litigation.

Who Will Be Handling the Mass Tort Porter Ranch Gas Leak Lawsuit?

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman is evaluating individual cases and will refer eligible cases to our team of attorneys led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. While our law firm maintains joint responsibility for each case, each Porter Ranch gas leak lawsuit will be handled by Mr. Kennedy’s legal team. All Porter Ranch cases we have acquired have been referred to the Kennedy legal team on the same day.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or damages stemming from the Porter Ranch gas leak, please contact us.

Please contact our law firm at 800-827-0087 or provide information below:*Designates a required field

Please allow a few moments after submitting this form. You will be notified when your information is received.