Southern California Gas and its parent company, Sempra Energy, have agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion as part of a settlement agreement announced on Monday related to the nation’s biggest natural gas leak.
The settlement would resolve nearly all of the 35,000 claims filed by individuals and businesses after SoCal Gas’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility blew out in 2015. The leak at the facility, in the Santa Susana Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, forced thousands of people from their homes in and around the Porter Ranch community, sickening many from the stench of chemicals wafting through the air near the plant.
From October 2015 to February 2016, the gas company worked to contain the leak, which released nearly 100,000 tons of methane and other substances into the air. Sempra had to temporarily close the facility, at one of the largest natural gas fields in the country. At the time, the leak raised concern among regulators about gas shortages that ultimately never happened.
“Our goal has always been obtaining justice for the men, women and children who were failed by SoCal Gas throughout every turn of this catastrophe,” said Brian Panish, the lead trial lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Scott Drury, the chief executive of SoCal Gas, said in a statement announcing the settlement that the company had worked to improve its operations as a result of the leak and had aimed to maintain new standards to ensure residents’ safety.
“These agreements are an important milestone that will help the community and our company work toward putting this difficult chapter behind us,” Mr. Drury said. “In the years since the leak, SoCal Gas has worked alongside regulators, technical experts and our neighbors to enhance safety at all our underground storage facilities and our engagement with the community.”
Plaintiffs can agree to accept the settlement until June 1, 2022.