A natural gas leak near the San Fernando Valley neighborhood Porter Ranch has been pumping enormous amounts of methane gas into the air since late October, much to the dismay of both residents of the area—some of whom have experienced headaches and nosebleeds since then—and the Southern California Gas Company, which operates the natural gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon where the leak is. The gas company has tried, unsuccessfully, to plug the leak and is working on a solution that could take months to complete. In the meantime, the Daily News reports, the FAA has barred planes from flying over Porter Ranch until March 2016.
The FAA ban comes not because they're worried about a plane starting a fire, but because they're worried about the safety of workers who are trying to make repairs on the site. Last weekend, a private plane flew over the site several times, and at a very low altitude. "We have concerns that if planes fly over that area it could impact worker safety at the site," a rep for California's Office of Emergency Services told the DN.
Only private planes will be affected by the temporary flight restriction because goes up to 2,000 feet, and commercial planes fly higher than that. The restrictions are also for a very small area—a half-mile radius around the site. "[I]t will have minimal, if any, impact on private pilots," an FAA spokesman said.
But a gas company spokesman kind of made it sound like the methane was part of the reason behind the flight ban, telling the DN that "Out of an abundance of caution a restriction on flights under 2,000 feet was put in place to lessen the chance a low-level flight could encounter a pocket of concentrated methane," but adding that "Low-level flights also could present a safety risk as they may distract workers at the leak site who are often conducting delicate operations."
The flight restriction comes as greater attention is drawn to the leak. The local state representative has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the case, and video's been released that shows huge clouds of the gas, invisible to the naked eye, creepily floating through the area.
· FAA bans flights over Porter Ranch due to leak [LADN]
· An Insane Amount of Natural Gas is Leaking Into the Valley's Porter Ranch Neighborhood [Curbed LA]
· Watch Methane Gas Eerily Float Over the Hills Near the Huge Porter Ranch Gas Leak [Curbed LA]