Porter Ranch gas leak prompts FAA flight restriction

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Friday, December 11, 2015
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The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a temporary flight restriction over Porter Ranch for fear that low-flying planes could ignite fumes from the ongoing natural gas leak.

PORTER RANCH, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a temporary flight restriction over Porter Ranch for fear that low-flying planes could ignite fumes from the ongoing natural gas leak.

The temporary flight restriction has a half-mile radius and extends to 2,000 feet altitude. According to the FAA, the restriction went into effect on Wednesday and is set to be in place until March 8, 2016.

No pilots are allowed to operate an aircraft under the restriction. Only relief aircraft operations are allowed under the direction of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the FAA said.

MORE: Video shows toxic gas plume releasing in Porter Ranch, experts say

Meantime, health concerns continue to grow over the weeks-old gas leak, which was discovered Oct. 23 by crews at the Aliso Canyon Storage Field facility near Northridge.

Southern California Gas Co. officials initially said the issue would be resolved in a few days or weeks but later said the leak could actually take months to fix.

The Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources expanded an emergency order it issued in November. The utility now must provide a detailed schedule for work on drilling a relief well to stop the leak.

The utility was told to "expeditiously and aggressively pursue options" for capturing the methane while the well is drilled.

The division also announced that it plans to bring in a group of scientists from three national laboratories to help monitor the efforts and look at data supplied by the gas company.

The leak has been blamed for sickening hundreds of area residents by spewing huge amounts of methane into the air.

County health officials say they have received reports of residents experiencing nosebleeds, dizziness, nausea and headaches linked to the leak and have ordered Southern California Gas Co. to offer free, temporary relocation to area residents.

No evacuation order for the area has been issued but 700 families have voluntarily left the area and another 1,000 are applying for relocation services, officials said.

Many Porter Ranch parents say they've had enough. They want schools in the area to shut down, and some aren't waiting for the district to act.

"We're taking her out after next week," said Elizabeth Tracton, a Porter Ranch resident. "We've moved in with my parents in Encino and she's going to start school over there."

Another parent Asma Merchant says she's considering moving her 7-year-old son to a school in Granada Hills.

"He had a bloody nose two days ago, and he's 7, and never in his life he had a bloody nose before, so I'm concerned," Merchant said.

Local leaders are joining the chant. City Coucilman Mitch Englander feels it's time for Gov. Jerry Brown to get involved.

"Where's the governor? He's not here on site. He should be. This is under his purview, and we don't have the regulatory authority. We filed our own lawsuit on behalf of the people, but that's going to take months, if not longer," Englander said.

Southern California Gas Co., which has been working to fix the leak, insists there are no health risks to residents.

So far, health authorities have not issued any kind of warnings, and some parents agree - at least for now.

Porter Ranch Community School is conducting a survey about the possibility to relocate. Also, the Los Angeles Unified School District says it has contracted an environmental consultant to conduct air quality tests at Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter School.

The Associated Press and City New Service contributed to this report.