Updated at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 6. Sen. Fran Pavley calls Brown's order a good “first step,” but promises more.
Bowing to weeks of public pressure, Gov. Jerry Brown today declared a state of emergency in response to the Porter Ranch gas leak.
The governor has been reluctant to take that step, which typically entails freeing up state money to deal with a natural disaster. Brown's order includes a provision requiring Southern California Gas Company to pick up all costs associated with the leak, which has been ongoing since Oct. 23.
Residents and local elected officials have been urging Brown to take a more prominent role in responding to the situation. On Monday, he toured the site for the first time and met with members of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council.
“It was really frustrating not seeing his personal presence at the beginning of this,” said L.A. Councilman Mitch Englander, who has been heavily involved in the response. “We're grateful he's stepped up. A lot of the teeth that have been missing, and we’ve been asking for, is in here.”
In a statement, Alexandra Nagy, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, said the declaration was “necessary and overdue.” She also called on the governor to shut down the facility entirely.
Brown's action will impose new emergency regulations on gas storage facilities throughout the state. Operators will be required to use imaging technology to check for leaks at well sites on a daily basis. They will also have to verify the mechanical integrity of wells and regularly test safety valves. Some of the new rules appear to mandate practices that are already standard in the industry, and it will require further detail to understand how strict the new requirements are.
SoCalGas is already under orders to stop the leak as quickly as possible. The gas company has been drilling a relief well since Dec. 4, which it expects will halt the leak by the end of February or late March. The company is expected to begin drilling another relief well later this month. Brown's order requires the company to develop a backup plan in case the relief wells fail. It also requires the company to come up with a plan by the end of March to offset the carbon emissions from the leak.
The Weekly reported last month that the leaking well, called SS-25, did not have a sub-surface safety valve. SoCalGas officials have said the valve was removed in 1979 because it was leaking.
Update at 5:30 p.m.: Sen. Fran Pavley, who represents Porter Ranch, calls Brown's action the “first steps in a comprehensive state response.”
“The Legislature will consider further actions in the months ahead,” she said.
SoCalGas CEO Dennis Arriola also issued a statement affirming his previous pledge to work with the governor's office and state regulators to stop the leak as quickly as possible.