Southern California Gas Co. announced Monday it has reached a new agreement with the city to extend the time allotted for displaced Porter Ranch residents to return home once the Aliso Canyon gas leak has been resolved.
Originally, the Los Angeles-based natural gas provider said residents in short-term temporary housing – such as hotels – would have 48 hours to return home. But following negotiations with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, SoCal Gas has extended the transition period to eight days.
“After finding their lives upended for months, Porter Ranch residents deserve a reasonable amount of time to move back into their homes – following independent assurance the leak truly has been stopped," said City Attorney Mike Feuer in a statement. “This agreement will help residents resume their daily routines on schedules that work best for them.”
However, Michael D. Antonovich, Los Angeles County Supervisor, said the 8-day deadline victimizes residents and does not afford those displaced enough time to guarantee their homes and neighborhoods are in fact safe.
Antonovich said the County’s Public Health Department will take 30 days to evaluate the air and ensure resident safety, thus putting residents at a disadvantage if SoCal Gas stops paying the relocation fees for those who do not return home in the allotted 8-day deadline.
“Residents and school officials 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,” Antonovich said in a statement. “These residents have been forced out of their homes and their children forced out of their schools. A 30-day return policy would be in the best interest of residents, students and schools.”
For those residents who have relocated on a long-term basis to temporary housing, SoCal Gas said it will honor the terms of its previously-agreed leases and will reimburse residents up to $500 for moving expenses.
To date, 4,461 households in Porter Ranch and neighboring areas have been relocated due to the leak, many with residents who complained of nosebleeds, headaches and abdominal pain due to the smell of the gas.
The leak was discovered in October above Porter Ranch in the Santa Susana mountains, and SoCal Gas has said the leak will be stopped by the end of this month, if not sooner.
“We are glad to offer additional time to help make relocated residents’ transitions back home smoother,” said Gillian Wright, vice president of customer services for SoCal Gas, in a statement.