- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Southern California Gas Co.’s costs related to the massive leak of natural gas from its Aliso Canyon underground storage facility near Los Angeles have risen to $717 million, parent Sempra Energy said Thursday in its second-quarter earnings report.

The previous estimate was $665 million as of May.

The gas well blow out reported Oct. 23 at Aliso Canyon spewed an estimated 107,000 tons of methane over 16 weeks. Scientists said it was the largest-known release of climate-changing methane in U.S. history.

Some 8,000 families were uprooted from nearby San Fernando Valley suburbs as foul-smelling gas wafted over neighborhoods, triggering complaints of headaches, nausea, nosebleeds and other symptoms. Residents moved into hotels and other temporary lodging at SoCal Gas’ expense. The well was finally plugged in February and many residents have returned, despite continuing health and safety concerns.

The facility can’t return to normal operations until all 114 remaining wells pass a battery of safety tests or are plugged, a process that is ongoing.

About 15 of the residents rallied at the state Capitol and met with Gov. Jerry Brown’s staff Wednesday in a campaign to permanently shut down Aliso Canyon, the largest natural gas storage facility west of the Mississippi River and a major source of energy for the Los Angeles area.

Helen Attai of Granada Hills said no conclusion was reached in the meeting but she believes Brown’s staff left with a better understanding of residents’ health concerns.

Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the governor, confirmed that the meeting occurred but declined to comment further on the governor’s position regarding the storage facility.

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