Porter Ranch methane leak doesn’t bode well for climate

By Hilary Lewis

December 21, 2015

Have you ever seen methane? What about benzene? Or the chemical the gas company adds to make your stovetop gas stink, mercaptan? I asked residents at a Save Porter Ranch meeting in northwest Los Angeles if they had seen the pollution they knew was in their community, pouring down from the SoCal Gas storage facility on the hill behind town.

No one responded.

For months now, methane pollution has been billowing from the breached facility into their community. Families have reported bad odors resulting in headaches and nosebleeds. Over 1,000 families have already chosen to relocate and the school district recently authorized the two local schools to move out of the area. But no one had actually seen the pollution.

When an oil spill happens, you see it. At a coal fired power plant, you can often see the pollution blowing in the wind. But when a natural gas storage facility pollutes, what do you see?

Until now, you saw nothing. That’s because much oil and gas air pollution is normally invisible. (TAP – and odourless.  Methane was known as the silent killer in coal mining days.)

My colleague Pete Dronkers and I traveled to the community of Porter Ranch to show them the pollution they knew was there, but couldn’t see.


For Porter Ranch this was a critical step in gaining recognition for the problem. In Earthworks’ experience, showing someone pollution that is otherwise invisible makes it real, and helps catalyze much needed action. For many of the communities we serve, the polluter won’t admit there is pollution at all, so our videos are concrete evidence that something is wrong.

Earthworks uses a FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) Gasfinder 320 camera that is specially calibrated to expose otherwise invisible air pollution from oil and gas operations. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is one of about 20 gases it can detect. It also recognizes known carcinogens like benzene and other toxins like volatile organic compounds.

The camera is the same model that industry and government regulators use to detect leaks and other pollution associated with oil and gas. And Pete went through the three day training that FLIR recommends and state regulators also use to get certified to operate it. That, plus the $100,000 price tag, have kept this eye-opening technology out of the hands of the communities that need it most, until now.

What I saw in Porter Ranch was shocking. The black plume picked-up by the camera went on-and-on. But, unfortunately, I have seen it many times before.

Earthworks has filmed over 150 oil and gas facilities in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and other parts of California. While the camera shows the presence of the group of pollutants it detects, we can be relatively certain in this situation that the pollution is mostly methane because it was leaking from a natural gas storage field.

In Porter Ranch, and across the country, air testing is used to figure out exactly what type and how much pollution is in the air. Tests are ongoing in Porter Ranch, and have already found elevated levels of benzene. But no matter the facility, in our experience, almost everything is leaking something.

This pollution must be stopped:

  • Methane is 86 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. This one leaking facility in Porter Ranch accounts for an estimated 25% of California’s daily methane emissions. Imagine if other storage facilities like this one (and there are many across the U.S.) burst, the climate impact would be catastrophic.
  • Natural gas and natural gas drilling operations (mostly hydraulic fracturing a.k.a fracking) often bring up ‘hitchhikers’ like benzene with the natural gas that drillers seek. These pollutants can be harmful to human health and have led to documented health impacts for people living near compressor stations, pipelines, fracking facilities, etc.

Making visible the normally invisible pollution from oil and gas development is a critical step in generating the political will to take meaningful action on potent climate and health pollutants. The new climate agreement signed in Paris will fall short if we do not address all sources of oil and gas methane pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that would help us meet our climate commitments by cutting oil and gas methane pollution. But EPA’s proposal doesn’t cover existing facilities, or storage fields like the one near Porter Ranch. Hopefully we will learn from SoCal Gas’ disastrous Porter Ranch experience. Without strong standards that require cutting oil and gas methane pollution from all sources, our climate and our communities will remain at risk.


Source: https://www.earthworksaction.org/earthblog/detail/porter_ranch_gas_leak_spells_climate_disaster?gclid=CNmhts-v78oCFSEFwwodjJAOow


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3 Responses to “Porter Ranch methane leak doesn’t bode well for climate”

  1. Nollidge says:

    And with exposure to strong sunlight,methane converts to FORMALDEHYDE!. You know,the stuff used to preserve dead bodies &/or lab specimens in a jar,etc.
    So anyone living nearby is being slowly embalmed as they breath in.

  2. bluefeather says:

    Formaldehyde is also a byproduct of aspartame. Many alternative sweeteners, drinks, medicines and food products contain aspartame, and when catalase is not present in certain parts of the body, ie.the brain, instead of converting to Formic acid, it converts to formaldehyde. It is listed as one of the non nutritive / artificial sweeteners on the diabetes.org.uk websites, as suitable for diabetics. Licensed for use in the UK, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame K and cyclamate. Apparently all non nutritive sweeteners used in foods in the EU have to undergo rigorous safety testing before being approved by the EU commission. Maybe these chemical poisons are being tested by the wrong people, maybe they are biased towards corporate profit before people. Maybe by allowing people to ingest these these poisons, they allow certain agendas to be realised, such as depopulation. The food manufacturers can label aspartame as E951, Acesulfame as E950, saccharin as E954 and so on, this makes it difficult for some to identify when reading labelling.
    My understanding of this is that Aspartame is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and through processing forms methanol, and then converts to formaldehyde, but do check for yourself.
    In 1985 Monsanto purchased G.D.Searle, the chemical company that held the patent to Aspartame. Monsanto, that is responsible for saccharin, pcb’s, polystyrene,atom bomb and nuclear weapons,, ddt, dioxin, agent orange, petroleum based fertilisers, round up, glyphosate, aspartame, bovine growth hormone, gmo’s and terminator seeds. What a destructive list of products to put a name to.
    The key mechanism for Alzheimer’s is methanol toxicity.
    Approximately 5,000 products contain aspartame, time to go through your cupboards…
    Also, we see that, not just the methanol toxicity, but that formaldehyde also affects the mitochondria, as seen in previous posts related to glyphosates.
    On a larger scale, concerning the methane leak at porter ranch, that is now turning into formaldehyde, affecting people at a cellular level with many symptoms.
    All we do is research, learn, make choices and take action.
    Hopes this helps, seeing how insidious this agenda is, and how it is being played out.

  3. bluefeather says:

    There are many articles on methanol and formaldehyde relating to the detrimental effects on human health.

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