Monday, January 25, 2016


"The invisible catastrophe sickening families in California" PBS NewsHour 1/18/2016


SUMMARY:  Porter Ranch seems like a picturesque Southern California town, but an environmental disaster has been unfolding there for several months.  Natural gas has been spewing from an underground storage facility, causing health issues for residents and forcing temporary relocations for thousands of households.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now we turn to the natural gas leak in Southern California.

Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles, many of whom have been suffering from health impacts since the leak began in late October.  Relief well drilling efforts continue at the site, but Southern California Gas Company, which owns the well, says it could be late February or March before they are able to stop all leaks.

Special correspondent Cat Wise recently visited Porter Ranch, and she filed this report.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  On the surface, it seems a serene, picturesque Southern California town, with gated communities and views.  But Porter Ranch, which is home to 30,000 residents in Northern L.A., is anything but serene these days.

An invisible environmental disaster is unfolding in the hills above the community, where natural gas, seen in this infrared video taken by an environmental group, is now spewing out from one the country’s largest underground gas storage facilities called Aliso Canyon.

STEVE CONLEY, University of California, Davis:  This one leak is roughly equivalent to the entire Los Angeles Basin.  It will change California’s emissions for the year, substantially.

CAT WISE:  Steve Conley an atmospheric scientist with the University of California, Davis, owns one of only a handful of planes in the country with specialized equipment that can measure gas leaks from the air.

For the last several months, he’s been flying the skies over Porter Ranch to monitor methane emissions for the state.  Methane, a greenhouse gas, is the main component of natural gas.  And it’s extremely potent.  It’s more efficient at trapping radiation and heat than carbon dioxide.

STEVE CONLEY:  That first flight, we measured something like 44,000 kilograms per hour.  The best number that I have come up with to give people a perspective, it’s close to 100,000 pounds an hour.  Every month, it’s the weight of an aircraft carrier.

My first thought was tapping the instruments, there’s something wrong, because we have never seen anything like that on any of our flights in the past.

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