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Gas Company Wants to Rush Residents Back Into Massive Gas Leak Neighborhood

The three-and-a-half month long gas leak drama in Porter Ranch appears to finally be coming to an end. Last week, officials announced that the Southern California Gas Company was possibly just days away from sealing its ruptured gas well, putting an end to this months-long saga (or at least to part of it; there are plenty of lawsuits stemming from the environmental and publish health disaster). Porter Ranch residents living in temporary housing will no doubt be thrilled to return to the homes they left behind when the fumes became unbearable, but if the SoCal Gas Company had their way, those gas-leak refugees would be back in their old places even sooner. SoCal Gas was initially going to give residents just 48 hours to move back into their homes once the leak is stopped, but after some pushback, residents will now have eight days to transition back to their permanent housing, according to the LA Business Journal.

When fumes from the nearby gas leak in Aliso Canyon began giving Porter Ranch residents nosebleeds and headaches (and exposed them to benzene), they abandoned their homes and sought shelter elsewhere. So for the past few months, SoCal Gas has been paying rent for 4,461 relocated households, often at inflated prices, and that's in addition to the millions of dollars in natural gas that the company is losing into the atmosphere. The company is probably eager to move residents back home quickly, as it would relieve them of an astronomical expense.

But after months of living in hotel rooms and short-term housing, the displaced residents of Porter Ranch were none too pleased to find out they would have just two days to arrange a move back into their old homes. Luckily, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office had their back, saying 48 hours was not a reasonable timeframe, and negotiated a more favorable eight day window. City Attorney Mike Feuer says the six extra days will "help residents resume their daily routines on schedules that work best for them."

The Department of Public Health isn't so sure about the quick pace of the return either—they will be evaluating the air in Porter Ranch for 30 days after the plug to ensure it's actually safe. One problem, though: if they find the air is still contaminated, those that already moved back in, well, they're kinda out of luck. SoCal gas isn't on the line for their expenses once they move back home. Nor is the gas company financially responsible for anyone who remains in temporary housing after the eight-day deadline expires.

Even the eight-day timeline for returning Porter Ranch residents seems rushed to many officials. LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich says the eight-day deadline "victimizes residents," not allowing them the proper time to confirm the air in their neighborhoods is actually safe. He wants a 30-day relocation window that will more closely match up with Public Health's monitoring of air quality. Antonovich says Porter Ranch residents "should have the confidence once the well is sealed, that the area has been appropriately tested and assessed before the Gas Company discontinues paying for relocation expenses."
· Gas-Leak Refugees Get Some Relief [LA Business Journal]
· Nightmare Porter Ranch Gas Leak Might Finally Be Stopped Next Week [Curbed LA]
· Residents Fleeing Enormous Porter Ranch Methane Leak Getting Hit With Super-High Rents [Curbed LA]