LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California Gas Co. on Wednesday agreed to speed up the relocation of residents affected by a now 2-month-old gas leak in Los Angeles.
Under an agreement approved by a county judge, the utility has agreed to pay for up to three retired judges to oversee the ongoing relocation and for security to protect residents’ empty homes.
The agreement comes after the city attorney’s office sought a court order to accelerate the relocation process.
The leak was discovered Oct. 23 at a Southern California gas facility in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles. It already has forced the company to relocate thousands of residents who said the stench made them sick.
The well is spewing an estimated 1,200 tons of methane each day, or about a quarter of the state’s total output of climate-changing methane.
Forty-six residents have filed complaints about the relocation process, said Chief Deputy City Attorney Jim Clark.
Some of the residents say they’ve waited for weeks to be moved, while others have reported inadequate accommodations, including a family with an autistic son placed in a hotel room with one bed, Clark said.
He said an estimated 2,000 people still need to be relocated.
“Essentially, they (Southern California Gas) needed their feet held to the fire,” Clark said.
Southern California has said it will take three to four months to drill a secondary well that will be used to stop the gas leak.
In a statement Wednesday, Southern California said it was working to provide those affected with more “home-like” accommodations than hotel rooms, since they may not be able to return to their houses until late March.
Should residents decide to make their own arrangements, the company said it will reimburse them up to $250 per room per night, plus taxes and fees.
“Our goal is to reduce the burden on those who choose to temporarily relocate and get residents back into their homes as soon as we can,” Southern California said.
On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote Southern California Gas to note that the utility’s efforts to stop the leak had been insufficient and to say that he had directed state agencies to work with the California attorney general in investigating the causes of the leak, according to a copy of the letter released by the governor’s office.
Public health officials have said the leak is not a threat to public health, but hundreds of residents have complained of nausea, headaches, bloody noses and other maladies. The company and state officials say illnesses are caused by the foul-smelling additive that makes odorless natural gas detectable.
Los Angeles County and the city’s school board declared a state of emergency over the leak, with the board deciding to move students out of two schools in the affected neighborhood. The move begins after winter break and could last until June.