Southern California Gas Co. settled a lawsuit this week filed by the Center for Environmental Health stemming from the 2015 Aliso Canyon facility gas leak, the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history.
The suit alleged that SoCalGas had violated California’s Proposition 65, which requires businesses to provide warnings about possible exposures to toxic chemicals.
As part of the settlement, the utility company must monitor for benzene at its Aliso Canyon facility in the San Fernando Valley and provide text-message and email alerts for all residents in the surrounding area in the event of another leak.
“The settlement includes a $1.55-million payment from SoCalGas to the plaintiffs, the State of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and counsel,” wrote SoCalGas spokesperson Christine Detz in statement.
The leak began in Oct. 2015 and lasted for more than 110 days, releasing 109,000 metric tons of methane and other chemicals, including benzene. Exposure to benzene liquid or vapor can irritate the skin, eyes and throat and in extreme cases cause cancer and reproductive issues.
The incident immediately caused nausea, nosebleeds, skin rashes and breathing problems for thousands of residents in the Porter Ranch community and surrounding areas.
The community of Porter Ranch was particularly hard hit.
“This settlement is long overdue … but it does not erase the health and environmental impacts our community has suffered and continues to suffer,” Kyoko Hibino, co-founder and director of Save Porter Ranch, said in a release from the Center for Environmental Health.
“This signed agreement is a major step in making the polluter responsible for fence line benzene monitoring, and ensuring residents’ right to know if and when they are being exposed to benzene,” Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of the Illegal Toxic Threats Program at the center, said in the release.
The settlement is the latest development stemming from the 6-year-old incident.
Last September, SoCalGas agreed to pay $1.8 billion in settlements from more than 35,000 victims of the leak.
In January, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced a request for proposals for an independent study into the short and long-term affects of the leak. Many area residents have waited years for clearer information about what, specifically, they were exposed to and what the impacts of that exposure may be. Already, some residents have expressed concerns about cancer and other long-term health effects.