Porter Ranch residents unhappy with SoCal Gas $4M plea deal

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) -- A judge approved a multimillion-dollar settlement in the Southern California Gas Co. leak case, but many affected Porter Ranch residents are not happy with the decision.

The deal between the company and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office calls for SoCal Gas to pay nearly $4 million in fines and fees - but none of it is earmarked for residents who were affected by the months-long leak that forced thousands from their homes.

It also requires the company to install and maintain an infrared methane monitoring system at the Aliso Canyon storage facility and adopt new policies on how it deals with the release of hazardous materials.

The deal resolves the single misdemeanor criminal charge that the company faced for failing to report the leak in a timely manner, but it does not resolve the civil complaints filed by residents.

Many of those residents said they feel left out by the deal and believe the District Attorney's office rolled over for SoCal Gas.

"I don't feel represented at all by them," said Porter Ranch resident Maureen Capra. "I don't feel protected by them, by LA city, county or any of them. I'm just disgusted with them."

The Porter Ranch gas leak is considered to be the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history, forcing the relocation of more than 2,200 households.

A SoCal Gas spokesperson said the company is glad to have resolved the criminal charges and "remains committed to working with our regulators and to complying with laws and regulations applicable to the Aliso Canyon facility."

But the defense attorneys say the company is more committed to dragging out the court proceeding and denying payments to affected residents.

"Pay back what was taken," said defense attorney R. Rex Parris. "That's not that hard to figure out. And the fact they refuse to do it is for one simple reason: It's greed."

Defense attorneys will challenge the plea deal in appellate court, while the civil case separately continues.
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