The recent disaster at Southern California Gas Co. (SoCal Gas)’s Aliso Canyon storage facility exposed the severity of public health and climate risks related to natural gas leaks.
My family lives just eight miles from the SoCal gas leak. (Tweet this) As I described in my last post, I fear for my family’s health. I believe methane, benzene and other toxic substances in the gas plume harmed my asthmatic child’s lungs. And, in Chatsworth, where I work – a town within the five-mile leak “hot zone” – no information was shared with my employer by SoCal Gas. So, I have no idea how my own health has been impacted.
Moms Clean Air Force went to Washington last month to meet with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. We discussed why strong regulations on exiting sources of methane emissions are needed. As demonstrated by the Administrator’s recent comments, across the entire country, methane emissions from the energy industry are an even bigger problem than we thought.
While the gas company was forced to relocate thousands of families and evacuate two schools in the immediate vicinity of the SoCal Gas leak, the lack of information about potential health effects outside the arbitrary five-mile impact zone set by SoCal Gas, was null. This was despite several graphic reports showing gas spreading around the San Fernando Valley.
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have begun to study this issue. USC Professor Ed Avol believes that byproducts of the leak – beyond methane – may be a long-term threat to human health.
Although SoCal Gas claims there is no evidence of long-term health implications, I have lingering questions about the effects of breathing invisible noxious gases for months on end,
Now that formerly hidden problems have been made visible, what does the SoCal Gas disaster mean for the hundreds of aging gas storage facilities scattered around the country?
- Leaks throughout the gas supply chain must be found and stopped.
- Aging infrastructure must be replaced.
- Safety mechanisms and emergency response plans need to be in place.
- Facilities need regular updating.
- Monitoring must be ongoing.
With methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, spewing into California’s air, the SoCal Gas disaster has zeroed out the recent climate gains our state has made.
So what can we do to avert all the potential health impacts, and protect our atmosphere? I echo Congressman Brad Sherman in calling for placement of infrared live web streams at Aliso Canyon to make visible any lingering or future leakage. Furthermore, I believe gas providers should install similar live streams at ALL gas storage facilities nationwide while the current regulatory structure is set up.
Let’s zero in on what we can learn from the SoCal Gas disaster, so our families across the country are protected from air pollution from existing natural gas facilities. The EPA needs to hear loud and clear that Americans support strong national standards for oil and gas methane emissions — from all sources.