Musings on ⇒ Porter Ranch and Ancillary Damage

userpic=disasterI seem to be in a musings mode this week, and today my lunchtime thoughts are about the clusterfuck that is the Aliso Canyon (Porter Ranch) gas leak (SoCalGas Aliso Canyon Leak Info Site)

For reference, this map shows approximately the distance from my house to the leak (it’s about 7 mi, uphill, to the leak); this page shows an estimate of the areas impacted. Here’s my previous post on the subject. Recent news has shown how massive of a clusterfuck this is turning into:

We don’t live in Porter Ranch. We do live in Northridge, downhill and downwind from Aliso Canyon. There are mornings we have smelled the mercaptan, but it isn’t persistent or heavy. The YMCA I go to is in Porter Ranch; our synagogue is on the edge of Porter Ranch. I don’t personally know folks who have evacuated yet, but I’m sure I’ll learn more names when I go to the next temple event.

Fixing the leak isn’t easy. They’ve already undermined the wellhead, and made the problem worse with each stoppage attempt. The crater around the wellhead is now 25 feet deep, 80 feet long and 30 feet wide. The wellhead sits exposed, held in place with cables attached after it wobbled during the plugging attempt. The well pipe and its control valves are exposed and unsupported within that hole, atop a deep field of pressurized gas. So Cal Gas is now attempting to stop the leak by drilling relief wells to intercept the damaged well. Workers are not expected to reach the base of the well, 1.6 miles below ground, for at least six weeks. If it fails, highly flammable gas would vent directly up through the well, known as SS25, rather than dissipating as it does now via the subsurface leak and underground channels. A blowout would also increase the amount of leaked gas, causing greater environmental damage. This is on top of the risk of a massive fire if ignited by a spark. This well is in the middle of a brushfire area, and is subject to very strong winds.

Further, this is a problem that won’t go away when they finally fix the leak. Businesses have been impacted (the Y is almost empty when I go up there). I know it is impacting our synagogue, and I could easily see it creating difficulties for the upcoming cantoral search. It is going to drastically lower the property values of homes in Porter Ranch (which weren’t cheap — I’d guess between $750K and $1.5Mil), and I could see numbers being abandoned out of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and distrust). It is going to impact the property values of neighboring communities as well, and will certainly make it difficult for those looking to sell.

Then, of course, there is the increased cancer risk, which might not appear for decades and would be difficult to positively attribute to this source.

Further, our society being what it is, lawsuits will abound. Already, the sharksarecirclingand smellingthe chum. Who will they sue? SoCalGas, which is part of Sempra Energy, which was formerly San Diego Gas and Electric. Where do they get their funds? Ratepayers. Who will pay for the lawsuits? Ratepayers and Insurance Companies. Further, you know the actuaries at those insurance companies will increase their rates in response: both for the utilities affected (hitting the ratepayers), as well as for homeowners and businesses living in the area. These will all come back to bite those in Porter Ranch and neighboring neighborhoods.

The sad part of this all is that I don’t see any good resolution, and those of us in the area are stuck, either in one end or the other.