Miller Barondess Obtains Settlement for L.A. County Against SoCalGas for $119.5 Million

Miller Barondess Obtains Settlement for L.A. County Against SoCalGas for $119.5 Million

Miller Barondess represented the County of Los Angeles in its suit against Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) arising from the massive blowout at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field that forced thousands to flee their homes. The firm worked closely with the County throughout this disaster, including the County’s emergency response, to ensure the safety of residents.

In October 2015, the biggest natural gas leak in U.S. history occurred at the Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility. It spewed more than 100,000 tons of chemicals into the atmosphere and forced thousands of Porter Ranch families to relocate from their homes.

After the County directed SoCalGas to offer free, temporary relocation to area residents, SoCalGas stipulated to the entry of a Court-ordered relocation program, which required it to pay for housing accommodations and living expenses for residents affected by the gas leak.

But even after the gas leak was sealed, many residents continued to suffer symptoms similar to those experienced during the gas leak, such as headaches, coughing, nosebleeds, dizziness, and eye and skin irritation. Because of these ongoing health problems, the County Department of Public Health conducted an environmental sampling of homes in the Porter Ranch area, which found sufficient traces of harmful metals to constitute a public health risk. The County directed SoCalGas to clean all homes in the affected area. In response, SoCalGas filed a petition for writ of mandate against the County, seeking to bar the County from enforcing the directive.

Miller Barondess aggressively defended the County against SoCalGas’ attack, and successfully obtained Court orders to extend the relocation program and require SoCalGas to implement comprehensive cleaning of all residents’ homes.

The Court coordinated the County’s action with over 100 additional cases brought against SoCalGas stemming from the Aliso Canyon gas leak, including suits brought by California’s Attorney General, the City of Los Angeles, and a long list of private plaintiffs.

In 2019, the County, City, and State government plaintiffs obtained a settlement against SoCalGas for $119.5 million, including $25 million towards a long-term health study of the effects of exposure to natural gas from the leak, $26.5 million for greenhouse gas abatement, and $45.4 million will be used to fund other environmental remediation projects.

The settlement also required SoCalGas to reimburse the City, County and State governments for costs associated with responding to the leak, continue monitoring and reporting air quality along the fence line of the Aliso Canyon facility for the next eight years, create an internal safety committee, and hire an independent ombudsman to monitor and report on safety at the site.

We are very proud to have represented the County and to have helped secure such a great result for the County, its residents, and all of Southern California.

The Miller Barondess team, led by partner Skip Miller, included partners Amnon Siegel, Mira Hashmall, and Jason H. Tokoro, associates David Schecter, Kiva Schrager, Sean McKissick, Ryan Mackey, and Nicole Kim, and paralegals Ricky Reis, Scarlet Speakmoore and Louise Goldwire.