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Paul Zimmerman
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SoCalGas Sued in Class Action over Porter Ranch Gas Leak

The lawsuits relating to a leaking injection well at the Alison Canyon natural gas storage reservoir near the community of Porter Ranch have begun.  On December 2, 2015, the R. Rex Parris Law Firm filed a purported class action complaint in the California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, against Southern California Gas Company, its parent company Sempra Energy, and the State Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources alleging, among other things, causes of action for negligence, trespass, private nuisance, public nuisance and inverse condemnation. 

The lawsuit alleges that natural gas has not only been leaking from a damaged injection well into the air since October 23, but has also leaked into the water table.  The residents of Porter Ranch have complained of short-term health effects such as headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, stomach discomfort and respiratory problems.  These are believed to be caused by mercaptans, which are odorants added to the natural gas to aide in leak detection (since natural gas is otherwise odorless).  Some 300 families have already been relocated from their homes due to these short term health impacts. Perhaps the larger concerns, however, are whether the prolonged leaking of the natural gas can cause long-term human health effects and/or environmental damage to the air or groundwater. Present in the leaking natural gas is methane – one of the greenhouse gases – and benzene – a known human carcinogen. As Southern California Gas Company continues to work to stop the leaking, other law firms and activists are circling and promising additional legal action.  On December 3, 2015, Erin Brockovich announced on her Facebook page that she will be working with the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm and holding a meeting next week to talk to Porter Ranch residents. 

This article is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.