New Footage Reveals First Aerial View of Methane Leak Polluting Los Angeles County

Images show need for stronger oversight of oil and gas methane emissions

December 23, 2015
Anna Geismar, Environmental Defense Fund, 512-691-3468,
Alan Septoff, Earthworks, 202-271-2355,

New aerial footage released today by Environmental Defense Fund provides the first birds’ eye view of the massive natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility owned by Southern California Gas Company. The ongoing leak is disrupting lives in the nearby Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles, fouling the San Fernando Valley air and pumping out 62 million cubic feet of potent, heat-trapping methane emissions into the atmosphere each day.

The video, filmed by Earthworks ITC-certified thermographer using a specialized infrared camera, confirms the massive scale of pollution flowing from the ruptured underground gas well, which is one of the nation’s largest-ever methane leaks. Aerial images for the first time also reveal the damage at the location of the well, a site that has been heavily restricted due to safety concerns. Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, can be flammable under high pressures and inflict immediate climate damage – methane packs over 80 times the 20-year warming power of carbon dioxide.

“Events of this size are rare, but major leakage across the oil and gas supply chain is not. There are plenty of mini-Aliso Canyons that add up to a big climate problem – not just in California, but across the country,” said Tim O’Connor, Director of Environmental Defense Fund’s California Oil & Gas Program. “Regardless of what the future holds for the Aliso Canyon storage field, this is one reason why strong rules are needed to require that oil and gas companies closely monitor for and manage methane leaks.”

digital counter developed by EDF tracks the leak using state data to estimate its real-time climate impact. Current estimates indicate the daily leakage has the same 20-year climate impact as driving 7 million cars a day— or equal to the rate of emissions from all of California’s oil refineries combined. Nationally, the problem of industrial methane pollution is estimated to be over 7 million tons per year.

“I hate seeing SoCalGas’ pollution billowing over my home and community. Knowing this gas leak has been polluting us since October and won’t stop until March, if then, makes it clear there’s only one way to keep us healthy and safe now and in the future,” said Matt Pakucko, President of Save Porter Ranch. “Governor Brown needs to shut down the Aliso Canyon facility.”

At least a thousand odor complaints have been filed with the South Coast Air Quality Management District as a result of the leak. The health department has ordered the gas company to help relocate residents due to ongoing health concerns. Over a thousand people have been relocated so far, with at least 2,500 additional people requesting relocation. Two local schools are being forced to close.

“What you can’t see is easy to ignore. That’s why communities that suffer from pollution from oil and gas development are often dismissed by industry and regulators,” said Earthworks spokesman Alan Septoff. “Making invisible pollution visible shows the world what people in Porter Ranch have been living with every day for months.”

The new footage of the massive plume in the California sky drives home the severity of the methane problem, and the risk presented to communities and the climate as the nation’s oil and gas infrastructure ages.

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