The name matters.
Let’s not call it the Porter Ranch Leak, though thousands from that community in Southern California are suffering, and being evacuated.
Let’s not call it the Aliso Canyon Leak, though that’s where the storage tanks are — in the largest underground methane storage facilities in the western US.
It isn’t even a leak, which implies something slow, steady, controllable: not too frightening.
What’s spewing into the skies, thanks to the Southern California Gas Company, is a gas gusher. We will call it the SoCalGas Gusher. It is important that we always attach the name of the perpetrator to a disaster.
And it is a disaster — of huge proportions. The gas began escaping in October. It won’t be controlled for months. It is shaping up to be a major contributor to the climate disruption we are experiencing. Methane (natural gas) is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas; pound for pound, it traps 86 times more solar radiation than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
Methane leaks across the country are a big, invisible mess. We do not have adequate regulations to protect us from the leaks that are happening at every stage of oil and gas development, from the moment of drilling and fracking, to delivery through ancient, crumbling pipes, to your doorstep. Much of the oil and gas industry is fighting methane regulations across the board — they’ve gotten used to operating in a realm that is beyond the reach of rules.
That’s why we must get methane leaks under control — and that’s why we are asking Administrator McCarthy and President Obama to give us rules to protect us from leaks in existing gas infrastructure.
The SoCalGas Gusher was an invisible mess, until infrared cameras in helicopters caught the gas on film.
Our skies are not sewers. Let’s not allow those responsible for this outrage to get away with it. We need protection — and we must not tolerate a fossil fuel culture that doesn’t care what harm it does to people.
Photo: MAYA SUGARMAN/KPCC