The NeverEnding Story

A massive natural gas leak in California has been spewing methane for more than two months.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency yesterday over a massive natural gas leak in Porter Ranch that’s been spewing an estimated 66,000 pounds of methane per hour for more than two months.

Since Southern California Gas first discovered the leak at its Aliso Canyon storage facility on October 23, two Porter Ranch schools have closed, the Federal Aviation Administration has banned low-lying flights from the area (to avoid any Michael Bay moments), and the company has paid to relocate thousands of families suffering negative health effects from breathing so much mercaptan, the stinky chemical added to normally-odorless natural gas. (Methane is also colorless, but the above infrared video gives you a sense of the leak’s scope.)

The emergency declaration requires all natural gas facilities in the state to ramp up inspections and draft risk management plans, and calls on the Air Resources Board to figure out how to mitigate the emissions from the leak. They’ve got their work cut out for them—methane is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide, and the leak accounts for a whopping 25 percent of the state’s daily emissions.

And this smelly, climate-warming cloud isn't going away any time soon. SoCalGas is working to drill a relief well and plug the leak (illustrated below), but it doesn’t expect to get the job done until late February or March.

Illustrated by Southern California Gas

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