LOS ANGELES – SoCalGas will give Porter Ranch residents eight days to return to their homes once the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak is plugged, rather than the 48 hours the company originally allotted residents.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer applied pressure on the gas company so that the thousands who have fled the area know it is safe to move back to their houses. One city councilmember called the previous 48-hour window “unreasonable and inhumane.”
SoCalGas and the city attorney’s office said they reached an agreement on Monday. Residents can now stay in temporary accommodations for eight days and seven nights while they make arrangements to move back to the community where a methane has been spewing since October.
“After finding their lives upended for months, Porter Ranch residents deserve a reasonable amount of time to move back into their homes – following independent assurance the leak truly has been stopped,” Feuer said. “This agreement will help residents resume their daily routines on schedules that work best for them.”
City attorney’s office official Rob Wilcox declined to comment further.
SoCalGas will cover rent and associated costs for residents in temporary housing to the end of their lease agreements and pay $500 in moving expenses to residents who relocated to apartments and single-family homes.
The company says it expects to seal the leaking well by the end of February. The state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and independent experts will make a determination in writing as to whether the well is sealed before residents move back.
“The previous 48-hour timeframe proposed by SoCalGas was unreasonable and inhumane,” LA councilman Mitchell Englander said. “This is not just about returning home, it is about a safe return home. I am asking the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to work with the Los Angeles County Department of Health to assure residents’ safety.”
SoCalGas says it will consider special relocation requests from the disabled, people facing extraordinary circumstances or those with “functional needs” on a case-by-case basis
The energy company said it will reimburse mileage expenses through the rest of the school year for families forced to enroll their children in schools outside the Porter Ranch area.
“After listening to the community, SoCalGas and the City Attorney’s office have come to an agreement that we both believe is reasonable and will now provide residents with eight days to return to their homes,” SoCalGas spokeswoman Gillian Wright said. “We are glad to offer additional time to help make relocated residents’ transitions back home smoother.”
Residents in the adjacent Porter Ranch community first complained about the leak at the natural gas storage facility in Northridge on Oct. 23.
SoCalGas insists that the gas is not harmful, but residents complain that a foul-smelling odorant used to detect leaks and other harmful chemicals have made them sick. Residents have complained of nausea, dizziness, headaches, nose bleeds and fatigue.
SoCalGas said it has relocated 4,500 households.
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