PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) — A judge Thursday ordered Southern California Gas Co. to continue paying temporary housing for Porter Ranch residents displaced by the largest known methane leak in U.S. history.
But according to a source from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s office, the utility has filed an appeal to the ruling.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle issued a temporary restraining order preventing the Gas Co. from cutting off relocation funding and extending the deadline until March 18.
SoCal Gas said it was disappointed with Thursday’s ruling and insists there are no health risks. It released a saying: “…only relocated residents who remained in hotels today, or who checked out today, may return to hotels and be eligible for reimbursement.”
The Gas Co. was planning to stop the funding after Thursday, meaning displaced residents would have to pay out of their own pocket if they continue to remain in temporary housing.
The company noted that it costs as much as $2 million a day to house roughly 3,400 displaced residents.
The utility’s attorneys said the county’s own health experts said there was no threat of long-term health effects and any short-term health problems will go away now that the leak was capped nearly two weeks ago.
But the county’s lawyers argued that some families, who have already returned home after the capping of the leak, are still reporting health issues, and more time should be allowed so additional air testing can be completed to make sure there is no lingering risks.
Jim Alger said he and his family left a Burbank hotel and moved back to their Porter Ranch home Thursday. “Back here one day, my son’s asthma kicks up. Dog is throwing up again,” he said.
“There’s been plenty of communication when it was time to come back home. We got texts. We got emails. We got phone calls multiple times. But when it comes to the extension, not a peep from SoCal Gas today,” Alger added.
After learning about the relocation extension, the Algers decided return to a hotel like hundreds of their neighbors.
Gina Sanchez has a family of eight. She packed up her SUV and left her hotel. But now, returning means more money out of pocket, and her credit card is maxed out.
“The judge ordered it, but it has to trickle down to us, you know, down there to the hotel, to the people,” she said. “I have four teenagers who play sports. I haven’t received a check yet.”
“They’re poisoning us. And they’re lying to us when they bother to communicate to us at all,” Agler said.
SoCal Gas said, those who left their temporary housing Thursday are eligible for reimbursement. But many feel the company should cover the costs for all those displaced, regardless when they left their hotels.