LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Los Angeles city attorney filed a lawsuit Monday against Southern California Gas Co. over the natural gas leak that began nearly seven weeks ago and has reportedly sickened people in the area.
The complaint, filed by City Attorney Mike Feuer in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges public nuisance and unfair competition on behalf of the people of California. Feuer wants civil penalties of up to $2,500 per day for violations and a court order requiring SoCal to quickly repair the leak.
Feuer says in the complaint that the Oct. 23 leak caused by a well failure at the gas company's Aliso Canyon site could have been avoided if SoCal had "established and promptly implemented appropriate contingency plans for such an event, and pre-placed adequate mechanical and technical resources at the site to swiftly end the leak."
SoCal Gas also did not immediately report the leaking well or address "the consequences of the emission of a massive volume of greenhouse gas," which has caused nausea, headaches and nosebleeds among residents of nearby Porter Ranch and will worsen climate change, the complaint says.
Feuer said in a statement that no community "should have to endure what the residents of Porter Ranch have suffered from the Gas Co.'s continued failure to stop that leak."
"It's not only the odor - it's the potential health issues from long-term exposure to chemicals including benzene, the impact on the daily lives of thousands of families, and the enormous greenhouse gas emissions that remain unmitigated," Feuer said.
The lawsuit comes two weeks after Porter Ranch residents filed their own lawsuit against the gas company over the fissure.
SoCal Gas said that it began drilling a relief well on Friday to intercept the leaking well at more than 8,000 feet underground. The process, which is operating nonstop, should take three to four months to complete, SoCal Gas said.
The company is lining up suppliers and contractors to provide for in-home air filtration and weather-stripping to reduce nearby residents' exposure to the odor.
SoCal Gas continues to assert that the natural gas is not toxic and that the levels of the odorant in the gas are too low to be a long-term health concern.
Although the city's complaint alleges that the leak is releasing 100,000 pounds of methane per hour, SoCal Gas said in a statement that it does not believe it is possible at this time to accurately measure the amount of natural gas being lost from the leak.
Once the leak is fixed, the company plans to assess the amount of gas lost and report it to regulators.
SoCal Gas also said that "any estimates published in the news media or elsewhere on the potential costs of this incident are premature and purely speculative."
"SoCal Gas' top priority is to safely and expeditiously stop the leak, reduce the amount of natural gas emitting into the environment, and support the impacted customers during this unfortunate situation," the company said.
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