Los Angeles, CA — Shocking footage shot with a Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) Gasfinder 320 camera shows the massive methane plume leaking from SoCalGas’s Aliso Canyon Storage Facility in Los Angeles County. The footage, taken from several vantage points by an ITC-certified thermographer, makes visible the heretofore invisible pollution blowing into residential areas in the Porter Ranch community.
The leak, which began on October 23, has displaced more than 1100 families from the Porter Ranch area, with more than 2,500 still waiting for relocation assistance. The leak is spewing methane gas and other volatile organic compounds at a rate of 50,000 kg/hour, accounting for one-quarter of California’s total methane emissions. SoCalGas says plugging the leak will take at least three more months.
Local residents, along with Save Porter Ranch, Food & Water Watch, and Earthworks are calling on local officials and the State of California to shut down the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility for good. This week, Los Angeles Supervisor Michael Antonovich released a letter calling for Governor Jerry Brown and the California Division of Oil and Gas to place an immediate moratorium on new activity at the SolCalGas’ Aliso Canyon Storage Facility and requesting consideration of whether the Facility should be closed permanently.
“We’re sick of the gas company’s lies. That’s why we worked to bring this footage to the residents of Porter Ranch, so they could see exactly how and where this gas leak is rolling down into our homes,” said Matt Pakucko, President of Save Porter Ranch. He continued, “We hope Governor Brown sees this footage and gets involved to shut down this aging and dangerous facility.”
“Our continued reliance on fossil fuels only places our communities and environment at further risk of public health and climate disasters anytime something goes wrong. Furthermore, this recent incident has proven that the agencies and regulations will never go far enough to truly protect public health,” said Alexandra Nagy, Southern California Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “The solution is to decommission this storage facility and transfer ratepayer money to building the solutions and a 100% real clean energy future.”
According the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility is just one of dozens of similar facilities across the United States. As natural gas stockpiles increase due to overproduction relative to demand, pressures on these facilities — mostly depleted oil fields and salt caverns — will continue to increase. But under current and proposed rules, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not inspect infrastructure for climate pollution.
“No matter what the world agrees in Paris, we won’t be able to protect ourselves against catastrophic climate change unless we face facts in the U.S. about oil and gas climate pollution,” said Bruce Baizel, Earthworks Energy Program Director. He continued, “The fact is, we don’t know how much methane the oil and gas industry is polluting because we’re not looking at all the facilities that pollute. That’s yet another reason we should phase out all fossil fuels in favor of renewables as soon as possible. And in the meantime, we need EPA to do its job and take all actions necessary to address all sources of the oil and gas industry’s methane pollution.”
The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a temporary flight restriction over Porter Ranch for fear that low-flying planes could ignite fumes from the ongoing natural gas leak.
The temporary flight restriction has a half-mile radius and extends to 2,000 feet altitude. According to the FAA, the restriction went into effect on Wednesday and is set to be in place until March 8, 2016.
No pilots are allowed to operate an aircraft under the restriction. Only relief aircraft operations are allowed under the direction of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the FAA said.
About the Footage:
Via Earthworks’ Citizens Empowerment Project, the FLIR footage was shot by Earthworks’ ITC-certified thermographer in collaboration with Food & Water Watch and Save Porter Ranch. The camera is a FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) GasFinder 320 Camera, the same equipment used by regulators and the industry to detect methane leaks and pollution. ITC certification is also used by industry, regulators, and recommended by the camera manufacturer. The camera shows methane and 20 other volatile organic compounds including carcinogens like benzene. It does not, however, distinguish among those pollutants. Because this is a natural gas storage field, the clouds it shows are likely predominantly methane. Separate air sampling would be necessary in order to determine which pollutants are present.