Inside Climate News- In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue long-awaited rules to control methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The regulations will emerge after years of activism and scientific studies on the climate risk posed by methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that's dozens of times more potent that carbon dioxide.
But the regulations will likely be overshadowed by the ongoing saga in Aliso Canyon, Calif., where a leaking natural gas storage field continues to belch thousands of tons of methane into the air every week.
The leak was detected on Oct. 23. Hundreds of residents in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles have relocated due to headaches, nausea, nosebleeds and other health effects. SoCal Gas, the utility that runs the facility, attributes the problem to a side effect of breathing in mercaptans—the odorizing chemical that's added to natural gas to make leaks detectable.
But toxins such as hydrogen sulfide and benzene have been detected in the air, said R. Rex Parris, one of the attorneys representing people who live near the well.
These chemicals can cause severe short-term and long-term problems, including cancer, but scientists know little about how these mixtures affect public health over a period of months.
Parris said some residents have experienced more severe symptoms such as bleeding from the eyes and the gums.
"This wasn't a leak, it was a blowout," he said. His office, the R. Rex Parris Law Firm, is part of a coalition of firms representing more than 1,000 Porter Ranch residents. "That whole well blew. It's the most massive leak in the history of this country in a populated area," Parris said.