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Opinion Piece: "The 5-year Anniversary of the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Leak – A Reflective Review"

The Los Angeles Daily News published a commentary by Michael Jerrett, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of environmental health sciences and co-director of the FSPH's UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions (Healthy Climate Solutions), and Diane Garcia-Gonzales, Healthy Climate Solutions researcher, about the aftermath of the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak in Los Angeles. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Friday, Oct. 23 marked five years since the record-setting methane blowout at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. Aliso Canyon, located in Los Angeles County’s Santa Susana mountains, is the second largest natural gas storage facility in the western United States with a capacity of 86 billion cubic feet (or roughly 100,000 Olympic swimming pools).

The massive methane leak of 2015 resulted in the largest human-caused release of methane from a single point source in the history of the United States. Approximately 100,000 metric tons of methane were released before the leak was permanently plugged 118 days later, an amount which accounted for approximately one quarter of the year’s methane emissions from all sources within the Los Angeles Basin.

Methane is relatively non-toxic and does not have an established or regulated health threshold, but evidence collected by government agencies and researchers from UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Cambridge University in England raised questions about potential health effects from the toxic gases and particles released from the massive leak. Many residents complained about headaches, nose bleeds, and an array of other health problems that persisted long after the leak was plugged. Ongoing lawsuits allege that local residents of Porter Ranch have long-term health problems caused by the leak, along with workers such as firefighters who were exposed to air toxics when they first responded to the accident. As part of a multi-million dollar settlement with the operator of the facility, the California Attorney General directed $25 million to be given to the Los Angeles County of Public Health to study the long-term health effects caused by the leak. To our knowledge, the study has not yet commenced.