Porter Ranch Methane Leak Spreads Across LA's San Fernando Valley
It now looks like the catastrophic Porter Ranch gas leak, which has spewed more than 83,000 metric tons of noxious methane for nearly three months, has spread across Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander called on the Southern California Gas Co. to extend residential relocation assistance to residents in Granada Hills, Chatsworth and Northridge who live near the Aliso Canyon gas leak above Porter Ranch. These residents reported symptoms related to the exposure of natural gas such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and respiratory problems.
This latest development compounds with a new analysis from Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET). The Cambridge-based nonprofit sent Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips and Bob Ackley of Gas Safety to take methane measurements around the San Fernando Valley for several days and their findings were disturbing.
As the Los Angeles Daily News wrote, "the researchers recorded elevated levels of the main ingredient in natural gas—10 miles away from the nation’s largest gas leak."
"It's not just in Porter Ranch, it's going all the way across the [San Fernando] Valley," Ackley told Inside Climate News.
According to HEET, the researchers drove a high precision GIS-enabled natural gas analyzer down the roads around the gas leak to create a comprehensive map of the leak around San Fernando Valley. The red on the map indicates where they drove and the levels of methane they found is shown by the height of the peaks.
Their monitors showed methane levels at 3.4 parts per billion, about twice the level of natural clean air, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Another measurement showed 127 ppm, or an astounding 67 times above normal.
"Whatever else may be in the gas—benzene, toluene, xylene—that is what people may be breathing," Phillips told Inside Climate News. "Even though we're not measuring things other than methane, there is a legitimate concern that there is that other nasty stuff in there."
As Inside Climate News observed: "The findings challenge assurances from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the regional air pollution control agency, and the state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment that the leak hasn’t increased residents' exposure to toxic gases."
Dozens of public health and environmental advocates and experts will rally at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, DC tomorrow to press for federal action on the Porter Ranch leak.
“It’s an invisible tsunami of methane.” California's Porter Ranch is (actually) sick and tired of SoCal Gas: https://t.co/YZLXhX8DRE— AJ+ (@AJ+)1452727164.0
Friday’s rally, organized by members from Food & Water Watch and other organizations, will ask the U.S. EPA to intercede and permanently shut down operations at a blown-out gas storage facility in California.
Southern Caliifornia Gas Co. has evacuated more than 2,000 residents living near the leak since October. Porter Ranch was officially declared a state of emergency by California Gov. Jerry Brown, however, advocates have criticized his slow response to the escalating public health crisis.
“For months, Governor Brown and California authorities sat on their hands as this gas blowout crisis deepened and scores got sick," Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said. "Now it’s a matter of ‘too little, too late’ from the governor, and the people of Porter Ranch are desperate for federal intervention to end this catastrophe and ensure it never happens again.”
On Saturday, in Granada Hills, California, hundreds of residents of Porter Ranch will rally and testify at the second hearing on a stipulated Order for Abatement—which requires a company operating out of compliance to take specific actions or to shut down its operation to come into compliance—over the Porter Ranch Gas Leak.
Southern Caliifornia Gas Co. said in a statement that methane leakage has been slowly falling. Estimates by the California Air Resources Board showed an estimated 60-percent reduction from peak levels in late November.
The gas company is currently drilling a relief well in an effort to plug the leak, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. The effort, however, could take months.
“We’ve drilled to a depth of approximately 7,000 feet (and) we have to drill to a depth of over 8,000 feet, and remain on schedule to complete this process between late February and late March,” company spokesman Raul Gordillo said.
For more background information and personal accounts from affected local residents, watch here:
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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