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article imageCalif. AG and Los Angeles County file lawsuits over gas leak

By Karen Graham     Feb 3, 2016 in Environment
Southern California Gas Company on Tuesday was charged with four misdemeanor criminal charges for failing to immediately notify state authorities about the massive natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon that has forced thousands from their homes.
Natural gas has been spewing into the atmosphere at the SoCal Gas Aliso Canyon storage facility since October 2015. As a result of this massive gas leak, that also contains trace amounts of chemicals such as the carcinogen benzene, residents in over 5,000 homes have been forced to evacuate.
There have been a number of failed attempts to plug the leak, but SoCal Gas is still insisting it will plug the well by the end of the month through a relief well. In the meantime, the company is being hit with lawsuits left and right as residents, businesses, and state and local governments take action, reports the Insurance Journal.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed four misdemeanor criminal charges against the gas company, accusing it of releasing air contaminants and neglecting to report the release of hazardous materials until three days after the leak began Oct. 23, reports the LA Times.
"While we recognize that neither the criminal charges nor the civil lawsuits will offer the residents of Los Angeles County a complete solution, it is important that Southern California Gas Co. be held responsible for its criminal actions," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a written statement, according to Reuters.
Lacey's charges against SoCal Gas came just a few hours after California Attorney general Kamala Harris filed charges, accusing the utility company of violating state health and safety laws by failing to promptly control the escaping gas and report the leak to authorities.
Additionally, reports National Public Radio, the Harris lawsuit cites environmental damage caused by the release of 80,000 metric tons of methane, the main component of natural gas and a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The Attorney General's lawsuit amends a civil suit brought by Los Angeles city and county in Superior Court.
The amended charges include accusations the company violated health and safety codes, public nuisance laws and hazardous materials reporting requirements. The lawsuit also charges SoCal Gas with engaging in unfair business practices. Restitution, civil penalties, and injunctions are being sought to enforce regulations.
SoCal Gas has said they "would respond to the lawsuit through the judicial process."
More about socal gas, Lawsuits, aliso canyon facility, sempra energy, methane gas leak
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