Los Angeles DA files charges against utility over gas leak

Los Angeles prosecutors filed misdemeanour criminal charges Tuesday against a utility for failing to immediately report a natural gas leak that has been gushing nonstop for nearly 15 weeks.

See Full Article

District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the charges aren't a solution to the problem, but Southern California Gas Co. needs to be held responsible for the leak that has uprooted more than 4,400 families.

The charges came the same day the state attorney general joined a long line of others in suing the gas company for the blowout that has spewed more than 2 million tons of climate-changing methane since October.

Lawmakers in Congress have urged the U.S. secretary of energy to investigate the leak, and federal regulators are crafting new safety standards for underground natural gas storage facilities.

The criminal complaint charges the company with three counts of failing to report the release of a hazardous material and one count of discharge of air contaminants.

The company said in a statement that it will vigorously defend itself in court. Arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 17.

If convicted, the company could be fined up to $1,000 per day for air pollution violations and up to $25,000 for each of the three days it didn't notify the state Office of Emergency Services of the leak.

The company said it discovered the leak Oct. 23 and notified state gas and oil regulators.

But it failed to let state emergency officials know until Oct. 26, Attorney General Kamala Harris said in the latest of more than two dozen lawsuits filed against SoCalGas.

The leak has created a public health and statewide environmental emergency, Harris said. The lawsuit, which doesn't specify damages, says the company created a nuisance and violated health and safety codes and the state's unfair competition law.

A spokeswoman said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation and was focused on stopping the leak, which it expects to plug by the end of the month.

SoCalGas said it paid $50 million through December to try to cap the leak and relocate people, but the number of families it has relocated since then has soared and work at the leaking well continues.

It is also facing potential class-action lawsuits from residents and businesses as well as suits from regional air regulators and city and county authorities.

Harris, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, is the first state official to sue, though her lawsuit incorporates elements of lawsuits filed by the city and county of Los Angeles.

Several state agencies are investigating the blowout and have issued orders to the gas company to stop it and turn over records of the 60-year-old well and others from the field that is the largest natural gas storage facility in the West.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration got involved for the first time Tuesday, saying it is working to propose new regulations for gas storage and directing operators to "inspect and take immediate actions to ensure the safety of underground natural gas storage facilities across the country."

State regulators are investigating the cause of the leak, but they said they won't know until the well is plugged, which is expected by the end of the month.

Local residents have reported symptoms including headaches, nosebleeds and rashes, among other woes.

Public health officials have blamed the maladies on odorant added to make the gas detectable. They have said the leak - mostly methane but including trace elements of the carcinogen benzene - is not expected to cause long-term health problems.

-----

Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this story from San Francisco.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Several bloody footprints found at crime scene in Calgary triple murder

    Canada News CTV News
    Calgary police found several bloody footprints when they began an investigation into the disappearance of a couple and their missing grandson in 2014. Calgary Police Sgt. Lynn Gallen is testifying at the first-degree murder trial of Douglas Garland. Source
  • ‘Best mommy’ accused of savagely taping toddler to wall

    World News Toronto Sun
    REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — A young woman accused of taping her 2-year-old son to a wall so she could get some housework done and streaming it live on social media was arrested on Thursday. Shayla Rudolph, 18, was arrested on an abduction charge, Reynoldsburg police said. Source
  • Manitoba premier says indigenous night hunting is starting a 'race war'

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's premier says indigenous people shouldn't be night hunting and the practice is creating what he calls a "race war." Brian Pallister made the comment during a speech to fellow Progressive Conservatives earlier this week in Virden, Man. Source
  • Joy erupts as Italian rescuers pull out avalanche survivors [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    FARINDOLA, Italy — Five people were found alive in the rubble of an Italian hotel Friday, two days after an avalanche tore through the mountain resort and trapped an estimated 30 people inside, rescue crews reported. “We found five people alive. Source
  • Province should be incubator for health-care innovation: Nova Scotia premier

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia government says if federal officials have innovative ideas about how to better deliver health care, they should test them first in the Maritime province. Premier Stephen McNeil made the unusual pitch today, after federal Health Minister Jane Philpott held a series of closed-door meetings in Halifax with provincial officials and Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine. Source
  • ‘Stop crying snowflakes, Trump won’; Protesters cause chaos, smash windows on Inauguration Day [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to fill the nation’s capital for the inauguration of Donald Trump, and while the majority of those expected in Washington on Friday will be there to celebrate, some protesters say their plan is to do their best to disrupt the day. Source
  • Douglas Garland triple murder trial hears about bloody footprints in Liknes home

    Canada News CBC News
    An expert in crime scene footwear impressions is testifying on Day 5 of Douglas Garland's triple murder trial about a bloody footprint found at the home where a five-year-old boy and his grandparents were last seen. Source
  • George H.W. Bush, wife remain hospitalized in Houston

    World News CTV News
    HOUSTON -- Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, remained hospitalized in Houston on Friday, a family spokesman said. The 92-year-old former president is being treated for breathing difficulties stemming from pneumonia. Source
  • Freeze-dried food and 1 bathroom: 6 simulate Mars in dome

    World News Toronto Sun
    Six carefully selected scientists have entered a man-made dome on a remote Hawaii volcano as part of a human-behaviour study that could help NASA as it draws up plans for sending astronauts on long missions to Mars. Source
  • Feds dole out $146K to foes of proposed nuclear waste bunker near Lake Huron

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ten groups and individuals have been given another $146,000 to help them weigh in on the wisdom of burying hazardous nuclear waste in a bunker close to the shore of Lake Huron. The bulk of the new money from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is earmarked for indigenous people to take part in the review of the safety of the contentious project proposed for near Kincardine, Ont. Source