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SoCalGas has agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion in settlement for the Aliso Canyon gas leak

Released Images by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) showed methane gas leaking from the Southern California gas facility near the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles for over 110 days.

By the time SoCalGas was able to plug the blowout, some hundred plus days later, it had become the largest methane leak in U.S. history, as reported by the LA Times.

“Albeit, a victory, for our clients and an end to this lengthy legal drama between our clients against So. Cal Gas and its parent company, Sempra Energy, our clients are happy to put this behind them,” Exclaimed Matthew Nezhad, Founder and Lead Counsel of Oaks Law Firm, a California law firm representing many residents.

Now, six (6) years since the dangerous fumes spewed from a natural gas storage well in the San Fernando Valley, affecting the homes and sickening thousands with headaches, nosebleeds and nausea, the gas company eventually agreed to settle the claims brought by those affected for 1.8 Billion dollars.

Thankfully, as part of the Settlement, the settlement costs wouldn’t pass on to customers, the utility company has assured.

Attorney, Matthew Nezhad, lead counsel for the firm said, “there were failures that could’ve been avoided, causing the residents to suffer for years. We’re just thankful that we did our best, under the circumstances, to obtain favorable compensation for our clients and are extremely happy that they will get to close this chapter of their lives and move on…”

Christine Katz, one of the plaintiffs, said she was very pleased with the settlement. “It seems like a dream to me, I’m ecstatic,” Katz said. “It’s a chapter in my life that I am finally able to start to close and move on.”

Katz and some of the other residents, now living in other areas of the city, said they had to sell their Porter Ranch homes because of the disaster.

The gas leak and blowout in 2015 was determined to be one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters, similar to the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Porter Ranch gas leak disaster has forced California lawmakers to rethink he state’s reliance on fossil fuels and the risks they pose.

An independent environmental company, Blade Energy Partners, found that the company did not investigate the previous ruptures at the facility and didn’t properly assess its wells for disaster before the October 2015, blowout and should’ve been able to plug it sooner.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, through the California Public Utilities Commission, has sought to accelerate the permanent shutdown of the Aliso Canyon facility.

Alexandra Nagy, California director for the environmental group Food & Water Watch, said the settlement faces “a lot of healthy skepticism” in the community over whether the amount will cover the costs, including medical bills and lost business.

Although, So Cal Gas was cleared to resume storing gas at the facility in 2017, it has been doing so at reduced pressure, per their spokesperson “providing an additional margin of safety.”

So Cal Gas and its Parent company have indicated that other safety measures have been put in place, such as using casings around the inner steel tubing to provide a secondary, physical barrier; there are checks on all wells with advanced inspection tools and pressure testing; pressure monitoring of all wells by a 24-hour operations center; and a methane leak detection system has been installed.

All in all most of the people interviewed have expressed relief that this ordeal is finally over.