California Attorney General Kamala Harris has filed a lawsuit against the Southern California Gas Company, which is responsible for a huge gas leak near Los Angeles.
The charges allege that the SoCal Gas violated health and safety laws by failing to report and contain leaking methane.
Kamala Harris said the impact had been devastating to families in the area.
The leak in Porter Ranch began on October 23 and has forced more than 13,000 people from their homes.
It has been blamed for a variety of health issues and has been described by environmental campaigner Erin Brockovich as the worst environmental disaster in the US since 2010.
SoCal Gas spokesman Mike Mizrahi has repeatedly insisted that his company complied with all relevant state and federal regulations in the run-up to the leak.
The company has promised that it will be plugged by the end of February and the single well in question, a depleted oil field known as SS-25, will be taken out of use.
The use of old oil and gas wells for storing natural gas is relatively common in the US, according to industry bodies.
However, the state government says that SocCal is entirely to blame for the incident.
“The impact of this unprecedented gas leak is devastating to families in our state, our environment and our efforts to combat global warming,” Kamala Harris said in a statement.
“Southern California Gas Company must be held accountable.”
The lawsuit filed by the attorney general seeks unspecified civil penalties and emulates similar legal moves taken in December by the Los Angeles city attorney.
The leak has been described as the biggest in California’s history, forcing nearly 4,500 families living in the upmarket Porter Ranch area to relocate. About 1,200 more households are in the process of following them.
Repeated efforts to stop the leak by pouring liquid and mud down the stricken well have been unsuccessful. SoCal is now drilling a relief well to seal the damaged well.
Erin Brockovich has described the leak as a “BP oil spill on land”, comparing it to the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico six years ago, in which 11 people died.
The effect of the leak on human health is contested.
SoCal Gas insists there is no evidence that it poses a long-term risk but some scientists say there are not enough data for them to be sure.
Erin Brockovich – who was famously portrayed by Julia Roberts in a movie about her life – has apologized for her drunken boating arrest last Friday as it’s revealed that her blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit.
“At no time was the boat away from the dock and there was no public safety risk,” Erin Brockovich said in a statement, denying police claims that she operated the boat in open waters.
“That being said, I take drunk driving very seriously, this was clearly a big mistake. I know better and I am very sorry,” she added.
“After a day in the sun and with nothing to eat it appears that a couple of drinks had a greater impact than I realized.”
Legal clerk and environmental activist Erin Brockovich, 52, was booked into jail around 10 p.m. on Friday after game warden in Lake Mead, Nevada spotted her struggling with her boat at a marina.
Erin Brockovich had been out on the boat with a male companion but was alone when she tried to dock it.
Edwin Lyngar of the Nevada Department of Wildlife said her blood alcohol content was over twice the legal limit of 0.08 when she was arrested.
“She was obviously struggling to put the boat in the slip, and if you’ve had any experience, it’s a simple enough operation,” Edwin Lyngar said.
“This incident is an important reminder that boating under the influence is on par with driving under the influence,” he added.
The mother of three, who has an estimated net worth of $42 million, had slurred speech and was unsteady on her feet as she tried to dock the boat. She failed a sobriety test and was taken to jail, where she was later released on a $1,000 bail.
Under Nevada law, a first-time offense of boating while intoxicated is a misdemeanor that draws fines from $1,000 to $2,000 but no jail time. Authorities were unsure whether it was Erin Brockovich’s first arrest on the charge.
Erin Brockovich was arrested last Friday for drunken boating as it’s revealed that her blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit
Erin Brockovich, who married her third husband, Eric L. Ellis, in 1999, became a worldwide celebrity after the 2000 Steven Soderbergh film about her life.
As a legal assistant she helped win a record $333 million settlement from a power company after dozens of people were poisoned by chemicals released into the water supply in the California town of Hinkley.
After suffering an injury in an auto accident, Erin Brokovich hired the California law firm Masry and Vititoe to represent her in a civil lawsuit against the other driver. While the firm won her a small settlement, the single mother needed a job to support her family.
The law firm hired Erin Brokovich as a file clerk, which is what ultimately launched the former Miss Pacific Coast’s career in law and public advocacy.
While organizing files for a pro-bono real estate case, Erin Brokovich uncovered medical records that would lead to the largest settlement ever paid out in a direct action lawsuit in U.S. history.
Erin Brokovich’s investigation found that the Pacific Gas and Electric company had been poisoning Hinkley residents for more than 30 years.
Between 1952 and 1966, the company used the chemical hexavalent chromium (often referred to as Cr-6) to fight corrosion in the cooling tower in the Hinkley compressor, which was part of a natural gas pipeline connecting much of northern California to the San Francisco Bay area.
The waste water dissolved the Cr-6 and it ended up in unlined ponds near the cooling tower.
The Cr-6 then found its way into the groundwater, contaminating a two-by-one-mile area around the plant.
Because of Erin Brokovich’s research, more than 600 Hinklley residents shared the giant $333 million settlement.
For her work, Brokovich was given a $2 million bonus.
Julia Roberts won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich in the self-titled movie about the case.
Erin Brokovich and Masry then became the face of environmental litigation and went on to file several lawsuits against various corporations for pollution issues.
Since the film, Erin Brockovich has become a high profile campaigner and TV star with her own series, Final Justice.
Just last year, Erin Brockovich was back on the big screen in the documentary Last Call at the Oasis, which explores challenges related to the planet’s dwindling and increasingly polluted water supply.
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