Video Shows Frightening Scale of SoCalGas Leak

Aerial shot of the leak site in Aliso Canyon | Photo: Earthworks

Two environmental advocacy groups have released an aerial video of the ongoing natural gas leak that's plaguing Porter Ranch, and it's startling.

The video, shot using a specialized infrared camera aboard a helicopter, was released Wednesday by the groups earthworks and the Environmental Defense Fund shows a heavy plume of methane rising high above the leak from SoCalGas Company's Aliso Canyon well. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is colorless in the visible light spectrum, but does absorb some frequencies of infrared radiation. The Porter Canyon leak thus shows up as a dark plume in the video.

The groups also released the first-ever publicly viewable photos of the leak site, showing some of the damage from the mishap. At this writing, almost 70,000 metric tons of methane has leaked from the SoCalGas's well, with an effect on the climate equivalent to the total annual pollution from all of California's oil refineries.

SoCalGas, which used the site to store natural gas in underground sandstone reservoirs, has told regulators that it doesn't expect to have the leak stopped before March 2016.

Here's the video, which was filmed December 17.

"What you can't see is easy to ignore. That's why communities that suffer from pollution from oil and gas development are often dismissed by industry and regulators," said Earthworks spokesperson Alan Septoff. "Making invisible pollution visible shows the world what people in Porter Ranch have been living with every day for months."

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Aside from the catastrophic setback the Aliso Canyon leak represents in the state's efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution is also causing a public health nightmare for neighbors. Around 2,100 households have been temporarily relocated as a result of the leak, and SoCalGas agreed this week it would find temporary housing for another 2,600 affected families. The company agreed to make sure pets were taken care of, and to provide additional security for vacated neighborhoods.

"I hate seeing SoCalGas' pollution billowing over my home and community. Knowing this gas leak has been polluting us since October and won't stop until March, if then, makes it clear there's only one way to keep us healthy and safe now and in the future," said Matt Pakucko, President of Save Porter Ranch. "Governor Brown needs to shut down the Aliso Canyon facility."

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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