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California Gov. Brown declares L.A.-area gas leak an emergency

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Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a Los Angeles-area natural gas leak that has been sickening area residents for more than two months an emergency, calling for alternatives to stop the underground leak if existing efforts fail.

Southern California Gas Co, which operates the well that is the site of the underground methane leak, is trying to stop it by drilling a relief well to reach a damaged pipeline, then injecting fluids and heavy mud into it.

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The governor’s office said in a statement the utility will need to identify how it will stop the leak if a relief well fails to seal it – or if the existing leak worsens.

The leak was discovered on Oct. 23 at a well used for natural gas storage in Aliso Canyon just outside Los Angeles’ Porter Ranch neighborhood in the San Fernando valley, which is home to more than 30,000 people. Thousands of residents were forced to move over the holidays, with the company underwriting their temporary housing.

Officials from Southern California Gas, a division of Sempra Energy, have said they expect to stop the leak in late February to late March.

The leak, which state officials have said accounted at its peak for a fourth of California’s 20 million metric tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions from methane, is believed to have been caused by a broken injection-well pipe several hundred feet beneath the surface of the 3,600-acre (1,457-hectare) field.

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People in the area have complained of such ailments as headaches, nausea and respiratory irritation from mercaptans, the odorants added to natural gas, according to Los Angeles County health officials. They have said past studies found no long-term health effects from mercaptans.

The governor’s office said it had taken steps to coordinate the local, state and federal response to the leak, which at last count was releasing more than 30,300 kilograms of methane per hour, and stop it as soon as possible.

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The emergency declaration by Brown, a Democrat, follows calls by local officials in Los Angeles for increased state regulation of gas storage facilities.

The emergency declaration makes clear Southern California Gas is responsible for covering costs from the leak and allows the governor’s administration, if necessary, to quickly waive laws in the future to deal with the crisis, the governor’s spokesman Evan Westrup, said.

Residents of Porter Ranch have said they want the gas field shut down.

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For his part, the governor called for regulators to assess the long-term viability of natural gas storage facilities in California.

“As we have since this incident began, SoCalGas stands willing and ready to cooperate with the governor’s office, all state and local officials and regulatory agencies,” Dennis Arriola, president and chief executive of the company, said in a statement.

The leaking storage field in Aliso Canyon is the second largest such facility in the western United States by capacity.

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(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Dick Cheney raising money for Trump’s re-election — with White House staffers Ivanka and Jared: report

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney is raising money for President Donald Trump's re-election at a fundraiser in a ritzy western resort town.

"Former vice president Richard B. Cheney and his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), are to appear at a lunch fundraiser Monday in support of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation to the event," The Washington Post reported Saturday. "The luncheon fundraiser in Jackson, Wyo., will feature White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, along with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as 'special guests,' according to the invitation, which was obtained by The Washington Post."

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2020 Election

Heather Heyer’s mom says things have gotten worse since Charlottesville — but she has a solution

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CNN's Ana Cabrera on Saturday interviewed Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer. Her daughter was murdered by a white nationalist terrorist during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

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