PORTER RANCH, Calif. (KABC) --Porter Ranch residents who were forced from their homes by the biggest methane gas leak in U.S. history remain frustrated and confused amid an ongoing fight over relocation costs and timelines.
A judge on Thursday granted thousands of relocated residents another 22 days to remain in temporary housing at the utility's expense. The order was issued after arguments from residents and government officials that, even though the leak has been capped, more time is needed to test air quality inside the homes.
The Southern California Gas Co. is appealing the order. The company argues that air quality has now returned to safe levels and that health symptoms from the methane leak should be gone.
"Our decision to file an appeal recognizes the substantial, public body of scientific data from local, independent air quality and health agencies that have demonstrated that the air quality in the area has never posed any long-term health risk, and that the air has now returned to the typical air quality levels that existed prior to the leak," the company said.
For now while the appeal is pending, the utility said residents can stay in their hotels or check in again if they left on Thursday, and seek reimbursement under the existing plan.
But SoCal Gas argues that those who left temporary housing prior to Thursday's expiration of the original time window are not part of the 22-day extension and should not qualify for reimbursement if they want to return to a hotel.
Residents are frustrated by the utility's appeal of the judge's order and say there are still lingering health concerns from the leak.
"I'm not a scientist. I know that people have gotten sick and are still getting sick," said Porter Ranch resident Pat Pope.