LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the Porter Ranch gas leak that has displaced thousands of residents in the affluent suburb 25 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Methane has been spewing out of a Southern California Gas Co. facility in Porter Ranch since October when a pipe ruptured more than 8,000 feet underground.
The amount of gas released by the ruptured pipe each day is equivalent to adding 7 million cars to the road, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
Earlier this week, Brown met with Porter Ranch residents and toured the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility where the leak occurred.
Brown on Wednesday ordered a series of regulatory and oversight measures from seven state agencies, including an incident command structure at the site to coordinate local, state and federal response.
More than 4,500 families have relocated to hotels, homes of friends and relatives and other temporary quarters and about 30,000 are affected, according to the R. Rex Parris law firm that is representing residents and Save Porter Ranch, a non-profit organization.
Lawyers say residents have suffered nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
The emergency declaration is “a huge thing for the people of Porter Ranch,” said Parris. “It gives them all kinds of action they didn’t have before.”
The governor's action could pave the way for some relief because most lenders would not consider suspending homeowners' mortgage payments until a state of emergency was declared, he said.
But he called it “regrettable” that it took so long for the governor to take action.
“This case goes beyond Porter Ranch,” he said. “There are 49 other wells ready to blow that they need to fix right away.”
California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is investigating the leak and overseeing the gas company’s efforts to stop it. The state environmental health division will evaluate public health concerns and the Public Utilities Commission will determine the cause of the leak and any possible violations.
Parris expects the state legislature will look into possible mismanagement by oil and gas regulators.
“You cannot endanger the health and safety of an entire community,” he said.