‘The BP Oil Spill on Land’: Erin Brockovich on LA’s Gas Leak
The leak is so immense that even if the gas company wanted to — or if the state of California ordered it to, as Gov. Jerry Brown appears poised to do — it would not be able to buy enough carbon credits to offset the damage. A leading certifier of carbon offsets told the paper that not enough credits exist.
“The Porter Ranch situation is the BP oil spill on land,” Brockovich says.
As was true after the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, it will probably take years to fully understand the impact of the disaster.
What we do know now is that area residents are already feeling the effects of the leak.
Brockovich — who’s working with Weitz & Luxenberg, a law firm that’s mounting a lawsuit against SoCal Gas — says residents are complaining about headaches, nausea, nosebleeds and bronchial conditions.
SoCal Gas maintains that the emissions from the leak can’t hurt residents, even as the company has agreed to relocate some families miles away from the facility. “We’re all taught in Kindergarten, if you smell gas, you run, right? But [residents] were being told it can’t hurt you,” Brockovich says. “People are frustrated…. You have families coming from big homes, and they’re being put in one-room hotels. People are coming home finding out that their animals have passed.”
Brockovich says she and her colleagues felt the effects themselves while spending time in Porter Ranch interviewing prospective plaintiffs. “You just kind of felt woozy,” she says.
The firm Brockovich is working with isn’t alone in taking legal action relating to the leak — at last count, at least 25 suits had been filed against SoCal Gas and its parent company, Sempra Energy. She estimates, based on past experience with environmental disasters, that the Porter Ranch leak could end up costing the company billions of dollars.
“It’s not just Porter Ranch,” Brockovich says. “There’s communities like Chatsworth, there’s communities like Northridge, there’s communities like Granada Hills, and a lot of them are writing to me” saying they’ve felt the effects of the leak, she says. “So the magnitude of how far this gas plume has gone is probably going to be bigger than many of us imagined.”
Brockovich was pleased on Wednesday to hear that charges had been filed against the company. “It is high time SoCalGas is held responsible for its actions,” she said in an emailed statement.
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