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Southern California Gas Co. To Pay $8.5M To Gas Blowout Victims

The Southern California Gas Co., a major utility company in the state, has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit with South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) over a well blowout that leaked natural gas for months, according to the Associated Press.

Over 8,000 families fled their homes following the leak, which was discovered in October of 2015 and capped in February of 2016, and had produced the single largest release of climate changing methane in the country's history. 

Residents have blamed the gas leak for a variety of ailments, including headaches, nausea and nosebleed, among others. For its part, the utility reached an agreement with the South Coast Air Quality Management District to study the potential health effects of the gas leak. 

According to officials, the leak occurred in one of 115 underground gas wells in the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, which has since stopped taking new supplies. After the blowout, officials ordered testing of the remaining wells. Less than one third of the wells passed the tests, yet officials are looking into reopening the storage field. 

Where does the settlement money go?

The $8.5 million settlement will be divided as follows:

  • $1 million will go towards the aforementioned study
  • $5.65 million is earmarked towards paying emission fees related to the gas leak, with $1 million of that figure designated towards establishing a renewable natural gas project
  • $1.6 million will be reimbursed to AQMD for air monitoring costs
  • $250,000 will go towards AQMD's legal fees

Originally, AQMD sought $5 million for the study, and expressed disappointment in the smaller figure agreed upon. 

SoCalGas agreed to pay $4 million last year to settle criminal charges related to the leak, as reported by the LA Times

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