Aliso Canyon: The Invisible Disaster.

There is a massive methane leak in California that you may not even know about. Since mid-October, a broken pipe located 8,000 feet below ground has been leaking an estimated 50,000 kilograms of methane every hour, but Governor Jerry Brown only declared a state of emergency over that leak last week.

The ruptured pipe is located in Porter Ranch, California and the well is owned and operated by the Southern California Gas Company. Despite the warnings of environmental groups about the dangers of methane and concerns about aging infrastructure, it had been over a year since that pipe was tested, and no safety mechanism had ever been installed.

According to the attorney for local residents, who have already suffered serious health effects, “The safety valve that should have been at the bottom of the well to prevent [gas] from migrating up is not present in the wells...”

In other words, just like the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, SoCal gas could have installed the proper safety mechanism to protect the public, but corporate greed stood in the way of social responsibility. And, just like the Gulf spill, the company has been unable to stop the massive leak ever since because of the depth of the leak and the underlying safety concerns.

Currently, that company is building a relief well to stop the blowout, but they estimate that it won't be complete for months. In the meantime, surrounding residents have been evacuated, lawsuits have been filed against the company, and one of the most potent greenhouse gases continues to pour into our environment.

In the words of the legendary Erin Brockovich, “The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated.” And, the fact that once again corporate greed has put our nation – and possibly our planet – at risk cannot be ignored.

In the short term, we must demand that all available resources are used to stop this leak. In the long term, we need to come together as a nation and stand up to the corporate greed that leaves us all at risk for the next disaster.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 23 weeks ago

I have seen that they plan to bore a relief well that will intersect the damaged well near the bottom, and then pump concrete, through the relief well, into the bottom of the damaged well to stop the leak.

What I wonder, is the gas pressure so high they can't pump concrete down the existing well? It seems to me that would be much faster than spending eight months drilling an adjacent relief well. And what if the relief well leaks?

John Pranke's picture
John Pranke 8 years 23 weeks ago

Sounds like the same innefectual attempts used by BP in the Gulf, what next the infamous "Junk Shot"? Or will they just screw around until the pressure just bleeds off?

cccccttttt 8 years 23 weeks ago

One added point from a guest on the Rachel Maddow show last night.

The safest course of action now is to rapidly empty the gas storage tank.

But the company will only empty the gas at the rate they can sell it at

current market prices.

They refuse to sell the gas off at cheaper prices to reduce the danger.

So the profit motive of the company is in direct conflict with the health

of the community.

And there appears nothing that can be done about it.


Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 23 weeks ago

Pipes flat-out SUCK. They leak, they rupture, they explode. They are not to be trusted. Veresen, a Canadian fossil fuel company, wants to ram one of those damn things through Coos County... in the process, trashing people's homes and property.

Over my dead body!

Craig Bush's picture
Craig Bush 8 years 23 weeks ago

Soon the blue methane clouds will appear. The amount of methane pouring from melting permafrost makes what mankind does pale in comparison. 5 million new cars on the road the same as just this one leak. We didn't figure in these accidents when estimating our time till the "thermus maximus event" and mass extinction. We cannot possibly fully understand the synergistic effect of the fossil fuel economy that took over our lives. The terror that we face is so horrible we take comfort in diversion devices. We have become fearful lemmings. We are not like the early Americans who gave us our freedom. We are insane primates out of balance with nature destroying a planet. Republican socio-pathogenics and millenial apathy will doom our society and our future.

Boris Badenov's picture
Boris Badenov 8 years 23 weeks ago

I think what they are afraid to tell us is that fossil fuels are not as safe as they have led us to believe.

I just wish there was another energy source that just fell from heaven every day! You know, like sunshine.

John_mulkins123's picture
John_mulkins123 8 years 23 weeks ago

Dear Thom,

I understand your role is to present the problems and concerns, but at "this" point, it's just more of the same. The world and our political system are a mess, and we need to fix it, now.

So where is the discussion about improving our political system, our role as co-creators in our democracy and our power of sovereignty over the political system that is supposed to represent "us"?

I hope you hear my frustration. There is a discussion happening about how we change the political system we have inherited, of all the people I know, you should be part of that discussion. The only conclusion I can come to is that you feel powerless to actually alter our political system as a citizen. But Thom, this is our natural and most fundamental right. Is it not? What does "power to the people" and "the people's will" mean if we cannot collectively organize and express our majority values, and enforce them? We have the Internet now. Why are we waiting?


Richard Mathews's picture
Richard Mathews 8 years 23 weeks ago

Yes, the pressure is too high. Every time they have tried pumping down the existing well, it has failed. In some cases, it has led to release of an oily mist believed to be crude oil coming up from the former oil field used to store this gas.

We won a declaration by the governor of a state disaster. We now are calling for a national disaster area. That will help residents with tax deductions, mortgage relief, and federal resources to help residents' health. Please sign:

Instant-RunOff-... 8 years 23 weeks ago

Dr. Gene Nelson explains the problem of these natural gas leaks & explosions:

"..Comparisons are drawn regarding the almost two billion dollar PG&E liability for the San Bruno natural gas pipe explosion..."

"...I recommend that the draft version of the 2015 IEPR should be revised prior to 10 February 2016 to place greater emphasis on the abundant emission-free reasonably-priced electric power generated by Diablo Canyon Power Plant as California seeks to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. DCPP avoids about 13 million metric tonnes (MMTs) of CO2 annually.

I believe that the most cost-effective way to compensate for the increase in California's GHG emissions caused by the ACSF natural gas leak would be to expend the modest cost necessary to bring San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) back online, rather than constructing more solar energy collection facilities or wind farms. As a consequence of both generating means having capacity factors around 20%, considerable natural gas must be combusted to back up those so-called "renewable" energy sources. One year's operation of SONGS would avoid the production of about 13 MMTs of Carbon Dioxide. Since the estimated total CO2 emissions for the ACSF natural gas leak are currently equivalent to about 7 MMTs, per the EDF analysis, about ½ year of SONGS operation would avoid the current carbon burden of the ACSF natural gas leak. SONGS operation would continue to provide significant carbon avoidances during each year it was producing power again..."

"..expected claims, losses and litigation… associated with the natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon," which has forced thousands of people from their homes. Those policies, the utility said, have a combined limit available "in excess of $1 billion."

But legal experts and lawyers for residents in the Porter Ranch community near the natural gas storage facility argue that $1 billion might not come close to what the utility will need...."

"...devastating 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric natural gas pipeline explosion in the Bay Area city of San Bruno, which killed eight people, didn't have the ongoing hazard that Aliso Canyon does. That explosion has cost PG&E more than $2 billion in penalties, with the cost of litigation continuing to mount...."

"...specialized airplane. He was astounded by the figure he recorded:

Roughly 1,200 tons of leaked methane per day, or more than 100,000 pounds an hour. “To put this into perspective, the leak effectively doubles the emission rate for the entire Los Angeles Basin,” Conley said. “On a global scale, this is big.”..."

"...Seventy-five (75) days after Southern California Gas Company discovered that Standard-Seson Well number 25 (SS-25) was leaking large quantities of natural gas from its Aliso Canyon Storage Field in northern San Fernando Valley, Governor Brown finally declared a State of Emergency...

Critics say action ‘too little, too late’..."

Shares of Sempra have fallen 8.6 percent since the leak was discovered. Mr. Brown’s sister, Kathleen L. Brown, is a Sempra Energy board member..."

"...“Gov. Brown’s slow response is especially disturbing because state regulators’ hands-off approach to underground injection helped set the stage for this catastrophe,” the center’s Maya Golden-Krasner said in a prepared statement. “The state has known for years that aging natural gas infrastructure was a disaster waiting to happen, but officials mostly ignored those risks.”.."

"...“This is the equivalent of the BP oil spill, except it’s on land, in a populated community,” said Mitchell Englander, the Los Angeles city councilman who represents Porter Ranch. “This is one of the most disruptive, catastrophic environmental events that I’ve seen. It’s a truly chaoticcrisis.”

Already, more than 2,000 families have left this affluent suburb because of the terrible smell and its side effects, which include nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness and vomiting..."

It is obvious that Governor Brown is a bought-and-paid-for Natural Gas stooge, and does everything he can to increase profits for Big Oil/NG in California. Including hyping scams like Wind & Solar that increase NG & Oil consumption and shutting down perfectly good Nuclear Power plants that severely reduce NG consumption. Soon California will be importing Terrorist, Child-Killer LNG from the Middle East, when the US NG Ponzi Scheme bubble bursts. This has long been Chevron's wet dream. Amazing all the exemptions Fracked NG gets:

The Clean Water Act.

Safe Drinking Water Act.

Clean Air Act.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act.

National Environmental Policy Act.

Radioisotope emissions regulations.

Why doesn't clean, green, zero emissions Nuclear Energy get any exemptions? Just a small fraction of the radioisotope emissions from the Porter Ranch leak would cause the NRC to immediately shutdown and close indefinitely any NPP. NG is exempt from that. It sure is wonderful when you have enough cash to buy every politician & their siblings and/or kids.

"...Is this “dereliction of duty” partly due to Governor Brown’s relationship with his sister, Kathleen Brown? Certainly, at the very least, there is a conflict of interest. Ms. Brown serves on multiple boards receiving from each one enormous financial compensation. She has an equity stake in Sempra, is partner in the Manatt Phelps Law Firm which represents one of the biggest oil-fracking lobbies in California, and is beneficiary of over a million dollars for her involvement with Forestar, a real estate concern that handles oil and gas considerations as well...."

"...Yet, it is baffling that Forestar (the same company with which Kathleen Brown is intimately involved) is still currently planning to create a 285-acre luxury home development (Hidden Creek Estates) adjacent to Porter Ranch despite safety considerations for the new residents..."

Don’t let anyone, including officials from Sempra/SoCalGas, tell us that mercaptan, the chemical which gives odor to the gas (for detection purposes) is not a potentially dangerous additive. Exposure to hydrocarbon toxicity (a derivative of petroleum and wood contamination that comes with the drilling and maintenance of these gas projects) can have deleterious effects on organs–the brain and nervous system, the heart, stomach, liver, and blood stream, with immediate effects on the lungs due to pulmonary aspiration of these gases. Part and parcel of the drilling and storage process entails the presence of a number of dangerous elements:

Methane (82X the GHG effect of CO2)

Hydrogen sulfide (associated with oil drilling—the Porter Ranch facility is a former oil dump, hence the decision to create a storage facility in the same area was a counter-intuitive and dangerous one)

Sulfur dioxide (highly toxic & causes acid rain)

Benzene (the most carcinogenic gas; it can accumulate in the body, much of which can remain for life)

Toluene (creating a major negative impact on brain and nerve activity - also a carcinogen)


Ethylbenzene (possible carcinogen & highly toxic)

Hexane (causing peripheral numbness—fingers and toes, for instance)

Xylenes (toxic)

Radioisotopes (mostly Radon-222, some Polonium-210)

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 23 weeks ago

Just pay the fine and move on. Business as usual...." ​If you're a big corporation, that's what you do!"

Legend 8 years 23 weeks ago

The CEO needs to be put in jail. CEO's need to take reponibility for poor safety and environmental damage. It this had been done in the past you can bet that there would have been a safety valve on that pipeline.

james5937's picture
james5937 8 years 19 weeks ago

Public health officials said most of the gas is dissipating and not causing long-term problems, though many residents have left because they doubt the air is safe. Foul-smelling additives that make highly flammable gas detectable have been blamed for maladies including irritated throats, coughs and respiratory problems.

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examsure8's picture
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