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Rosa the Dancer
Rosa the Dancer
May 25, 2024

Methane spills ooze out of California–and everywhere else


Increasing methane gas spills take their toll on the people and environment of the U.S.

The methane gas leak in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles, California may bring serious consequences to California, and is considered to be the worst gas leak in state history.

Click here for a closer look at the location of the Porter Ranch in Las Angeles, California

The gas has been oozing from a ruptured well since October of 2015, and officials have doubled the area of its impact zone. The thousands of people affected by and relocating from the leak are increasing. Approximately 2,000 children experiencing a range of symptoms–from difficulty breathing to bloody noses–have been directed to schools outside the impacted area.

Methane presents no long-term health risks, but an immense natural gas leak can cause fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea and strange breathing patterns. Officials predict the illnesses that members of the community are experiencing are from odor solutions, or “chemical soups”, added to natural gas to make it identifiable.

Earth/Environmental, Biology and GEO teacher Mark DiMaggio has been following the story. “The Southern California Gas company’s in trouble, because there’s this whole community of people… and they’re just like ‘okay, our kids are sick and they can’t go to school, we can’t go to work, this isn’t working at all,’” he said. He felt methane is a health risk to Porter Ranch residents: “You don’t want to be breathing


A primary element in natural gas, methane (CH4) is an invisible climate change accelerant, heating the earth at 84 times the rate of carbon dioxide over the course of 20 years.

DiMaggio explained P
RHS uses methane daily, pumped underground below Niblick Rd. and used to cook food in the cafeteria and to heat rooms. He admitted methane plays a large role in American daily life; admitting, “It’s pretty valuable stuff.”

Earth/Environmental, Biology and GEO teacher Mark DiMaggio

Yet, the greenhouse gas aspect of methane, especially in leaks, adds dramatically to global warming.

“Methane is the second most important gas that’s causing global warming; all this stuff that’s coming out of the ground down there, it’s amplifying global warming,” DiMaggio said.

To plug the L.A. spillage, SoCalGas is drilling 8,000 feet into the leak site in to intersect the oozing pipe and stop the drainage. Construction crews are very

cautious, avoiding further aggravation of the leakage, drilling about 20 feet a day.

Congressman Ben Sherman believes that if the first relief well doesn’t work, they will continue to toil until the drainage is stopped.

“You[’ve] got to keep trying to seal this until either the field is empty, or the leak is plugged,” Sherman told CNN News.

DiMaggio pointed out the tragedy that L.A. is leaking methane while legislators are trying to limit gas pollution. “It’s like canceling out all other efforts people are trying to do to not pollute,” DiMaggio said.

The Porter Ranch leak may be the only incident recorded to this scale, but is only one of many dangerous leaks across the nation. Experts believe thousands of similar U.S. leaks exist. Chicago faces one methane leak for every three miles; Indianapolis shows one leak every 200 miles.

Methane leakage can occur at any stage of oil and gas production, from leaks along the millions of miles of domestic pipeline

Click here for a a YouTube commentary about the leak by Matt Simmons

to intentional burn-offs of the gas at thousands of production sites sprinkled across the United States’ countryside. Hydraulic fracturing during the process can leak methane as well. Because of these factors, methane emissions may be up to 50 percent higher than originally predicted projections from the U.S.

“The state doesn’t really require Southern California Gas to maintain their infrastructure – their whole network of pipes and pumps that they use – and so they want to make profit… so they let it go,” said DiMaggio, who is confident that the money-making mindset of SoCal Gas is a major factor in the reason for the initial leak in their system. “Southern California Gas is under a lot of fire,” he said.

At this point in time, federal regulators have yet to take action. It is predicted, however, that the state of California will step in and assume a leadership role in this process soon.

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