Methane in the News: Natural gas leak in California creates state of emergency

With the recent natural gas leak in California there have been a lot of questions regarding the effects of natural gas on the environment. The natural gas leak took place in Porter Ranch, California. According to multiple media reports, the first reported leak took place on October 23, 2015 at Aliso Canyon storage well. However it wasn’t until the second major leak on December 4, 2015 that the public was notified of the leak. Some are even calling it the worst environmental disaster in California history. With thousands of people reporting sick from the leak, some are questioning as to why the first leak wasn’t taken more seriously. While the SoCalGas Company and the Department of Energy have told residents that the gas leak has no impending harm to public health, people are reporting dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and vomiting. The methane itself is not toxic to humans on a bodily level, however when methane mixes with mercaptan (making methanethiol), people can develop short-term medical issues like the ones noted above. The mercaptan is what gives natural gas its distinction foul smell.

As of January 8, Governor Jerry Brown has declared another State of Emergency where he has ordered SoCalGas to stop future gas injections into the leaking storage well. Now, recently, there have been outcries from residents after finding that SoCalGas failed to halt natural methane gas production in 26 wells after their 2014 inspections showed to be “high risk”. Despite public health officials stating that there are not long-term health effects from exposure to natural gas. Many Porter Ranch residents are demanding that SoCalGas shut down its facilities amid growing health and safety concerns.

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