Washington, DC— Environmentalists demanded a federal agency use its power to bring about a “total shut down” of an aging gas storage facility near Los Angeles, claiming that a leak there is causing an ecological disaster of massive proportions. Gathering in front of the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, they said that the EPA was not responding with the urgency that the situation requires.
A gas leak from a faulty well was detected at the SoCalGas Aliso Canyon storage facility on October 23. Reports indicate that the risks of a total blowout of the well have increased with every attempt to contain it.
The leaking gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas, but also contains carcinogenic gases such as benzene. The sulfur additives required to detect colorless and odorless methane are also toxic. More than 10,000 people living nearby have been forced to relocate because they were becoming sick from breathing the gases. The gas leak is emitting 4.5 million cars’ worth of pollution every day.
Walker Foley, an organizer with the Los Angeles chapter of Food and Water Watch, knew of several families who had to rush their children to the hospital because of the gas leak.
“What we need is a total shut down,” he said.
An infrared video taken by an independent monitoring agency demonstrated the overwhelming extent of the gas release. The leaking well is spewing 1,000 tons of methane gas per hour, the equivalent of one-quarter of California’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists believe that the impacts of Aliso Canyon eclipse the BP Deep Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
“By all means, it is a crisis that deserves national and perhaps international attention,” Foley said.
He expressed frustration that the EPA was not taking action to address the emergency. “The EPA could literally open a [Microsoft] Word doc and draft an order demanding closure of the facility,” he said. “They haven’t done that because our elected officials in many cases don’t operate on behalf of the American people, and it usually takes a tremendous amount of popular pressure to get them to do anything anymore.”
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, also called on the Obama administration to invoke executive authority to close the storage facility. “The blowout in Porter Ranch is a reminder of the threat of fossil fuels to our environment and public health,” she said.
On Friday, another attempt by SoCalGas to contain the leak by pumping a heavy mud slurry around the well-head went awry and created a wide crater around the well-head instead, further destabilizing it.