Because the methane leak has become one of the worst environmental disasters in the US in recent history, the California’s Porter Ranch gas leak will be investigated by the EPA severely. The leak has been present since October, forcing the evacuation of over 2,000 families, but only in December has the owner of the factory, SoCal Gas, acknowledged that the leak was detected.
Even though the gas leak is from a natural gas well containing methane, thus not posing a threat to human health, its odor has made several residents suffer from nausea, headaches, and severe discomfort. This stems from the gas additive known as mercaptan that is added to the gas’ composition in order to better signify that a leak has occurred.
The location of said leak was found by SoCal Gas at the base of a natural gas well at their Aliso Canyon facility, but repairs will last until the end of February.Although the leak will be eventually fixed, the amount of methane gas released into the atmosphere will have a rather large negative impact on the climate and the environment. This event has also drawn the attention of the famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio, known for his involvement in environmental protection movements.
An additional 3,000 families are currently in the process of relocating from the 30,000 member Porter Ranch community. All of the expenses required for relocation have been fully paid by the SoCal company.
One of the reasons why this leak occurred is the fact that some of the facility’s segments date back to the 1970s. The company was allegedly in the process of upgrading the factory, but this was extensively halted by the leak.
In regards to environmental effects, the methane leak produces air pollutants equal to 4.7 million cars on a day-to-day basis. Given the fact that this leak has been spewing gas for over 3 months until now, a staggering amount of emissions were released into our atmosphere, changing the climate and impacting the environment accordingly.
Besides methane, traces of a known cancer-producing gas have also been released. The gas in question is named benzene, and its levels in the area’s atmosphere are monitored constantly by EPA officials and scientists. Because of this, the community of Porter Ranch currently urges the factory to be completely shut down or, at least, for extensive tests to be made before reopening the facility.
The cost of the repairs are expected to reach $900 million, but this will increase substantially in case the leak will not be repaired by February. Small businesses will suffer from a decrease in income as well while the general public is under the threat of diminishing home values.
Although California’s investment in renewable energy and other environmentally beneficial goals will be negatively impacted, the fact that the California’s Porter Ranch gas leak will be investigated by the EPA will help in maintaining the state’s goals, at least to a certain margin. But the effects on the US climate, not just the state’s, will be significant to say the least, considering the amount of methane and benzene released into our atmosphere. The leak’s long-term impact will start to slowly show only after a few months, in 2016.