PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) — Southern California Gas Co. will pay $4 million to settle charges they failed to immediately report a gas leak that led to the temporary displacement of thousands of families from their Porter Ranch homes, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Tuesday.
The utility pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of failing to immediately report the Oct. 23, 2015 gas leak to the California Office of Emergency Service and the local Certified Unified Program agency.
As part of the plea deal, SoCal Gas will be ordered to pay $307,500, which includes the maximum fine of $75,000, plus a penalty assessment of $232,500.
Per the plea agreement, the utility will be required to install and maintain a new, infrared methane monitoring system at the Aliso Canyon site at the cost of between $1.2 and $1.5 million. Real-time pressure monitors will also be placed at each gas well as required by the state. The settlement requires an outside company to be retained for testing and certification of both systems.
SoCalGas will also have to hire six full-time employees to operate and maintain the new leak detection systems 24 hours a day, at the cost of approximately $2.25 million, for the next three years. The utility will also be required to revise and adopt new reporting policies for hazardous materials incidents and offer mandated training courses for all SoCalGas employees on proper notification procedures.
The utility will also pay $246,672.88 for the cost of the investigation and emergency response by LA County Fire’s Health and Hazardous Materials Division.
The terms of the settlement must be completed by the Nov. 29 sentencing date, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“This agreement ensures that Southern California Gas Co. is held accountable for its criminal actions for failing to report the leak,” Lacey said in a statement. “Going forward the protections put in place by this agreement create a safer facility for its employees, the environment and the surrounding communities.”