May 29, 2020
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On August 8, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an $119.5 million settlement for the Aliso Canyon gas leak.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra commented on the settlement that was also negotiated through the state and local municipalities. “For over four months, this leak exposed our communities to natural gas emissions that resulted in adverse health impacts and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of Californians,” Becerra said.

But controversy over the recipients of the settlement has increased. Some local residents and elected officials express concern about the lack of aid towards the community and citizens impacted.

Assemblymember Dante Acosta and Supervisor Kathryn Barger praised the decision, particularly the $25 million aimed towards health studies and other funds to reimburse state, county, and local governments.

State Senator Henry Stern, who represents the district including Porter Ranch and Stevenson Ranch, did not share the same opinion. Stern described his support of the public health study, but condemned the lack of settlement funds for the community and citizens. “Millions would go to SoCalGas pet projects in the Central Valley that only deepen our dependence on this dangerous gas field,” Stern said.

38th Assembly District candidate Christy Smith released a statement supporting Stern’s stance and advocated for more direct aid to individuals impacted by the gas crisis.

“Every dollar of the money in this agreed settlement should have been allocated to ensuring the safety and health of the surrounding Aliso Canyon communities. It is an insult to residents directly impacted by the blowout to have funds distributed across the state when they still have so much at stake,” Smith said.

Aliso Canyon was the worst single gas leak in the entire history of the United States, causing thousands of citizens to lose homes and suffer dangerous health effects such as cancer. It had a larger carbon footprint than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP Plc paid more than $60 billion in penalties from the Gulf of Mexico incident.

Smith compared the magnitude of the leak to other environmental disasters and their settlement amounts. “Even if this entire settlement went to the local Porter Ranch community – and the vast majority of it doesn’t – it would still be a pittance relative to the harm that the Aliso Canyon gas leak has caused.”

Christy Smith also attended a press conference with Senator Henry Stern, Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel, Senator Bob Hertzberg, and Congressman Brad Sherman.

The state representatives spoke against the settlement and advocated for proposed legislation to shift millions of dollars back to the Northern San Fernando Valley community impacted by the gas leak. The Porter Ranch Town Council, Save Porter Ranch, and the Food & Water Watch were also present.

“We do have many questions on how these [health study] programs will be managed and implemented. But we are also disappointed that the agreement lacks any vision, towards reducing the need for natural gas in the LA based area,” Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council President Issam Najm said.

Save Porter Ranch President, Matt Pakucko, spoke on behalf of the Porter Ranch community, “The community is pretty tired of being kicked around. And this time by our elected officials. They’ve actually given some of this settlement money right back to SoCal Gas projects in the Central Valley. Not much left over the victims.”

Pakucko concluded his speech at the press conference with a chant: “Shut it all down.”

Haazim Amirali, a Porter Ranch resident, gave The Proclaimer his opinions on the tentative settlement. “I think the phrase too little, too late encompasses how I feel. This is a typical situation where a big company will be allowed to continue to endanger its workers and the community so long as it has enough money to settle and support politicians who won’t come after them.”

“It’s extremely upsetting that they continue to get away with poisoning our air and endangering our community.”

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Sebastian Cazares

Sebastian Cazares is a lifelong Santa Clarita resident and student at College of the Canyons. He was heavily involved in Speech, Model UN, Rotary Club and journalism during his high school years. Sebastian is deeply interested in local politics and excited to report on the issues that impact his community.

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