Lawyers with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and Southern California Gas Company have reached a court-ordered settlement meant to speed relocation of thousands of residents who want to escape noxious fumes associated with an on-going natural gas leak.
Southern California Gas Co., which owns the well, agreed to move residents seeking relocation within 72 hours of making the request. If that doesn’t happen, residents can bring their case up before a mediator.
"The city attorney today achieved a terrific result, in our view," said Jim Clark with the L.A. City Attorney's Office.
On Tuesday, City Attorney Mike Feuer had requested a judge issue a temporary restraining order against SoCal Gas to hasten the relocations.
News of the methane leak broke in October. While officials say the methane itself isn’t a safety threat, odorizing agents added to the natural gas have given rises to nosebleeds, headaches and other health concerns.
According to the agreement, the mediators will be made up of retired judges appointed by both parties. Residents who have other issues — such as the quality or size of their temporary housing or recovering moving costs — will also be heard before the mediators.
The agreement also requires SoCal Gas to pay for increased LAPD patrols in Porter Ranch, where residents worry their vacant homes could be vulnerable to burglary.
Clark also said that priority will be given to disabled residents. For those unable to move, SoCal Gas agreed to pay for air filtration systems in their homes.
In the agreement, residents will also get help relocating their pets. “In addition to the human suffering here, the pets of the people in Porter Ranch have suffered as well,” said Clark. “Many have experienced extremely adverse physical reactions.”
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has also filed a lawsuit against SoCal Gas and is looking to depose several key employees with the company.