Los Angeles prosecutors filed criminal charges Tuesday against the Southern California Gas Company over a huge methane leak near the city that has been forcing thousands of residents from their homes since October, Reuters reported. The company will reportedly face four misdemeanor charges in connection with the leak and, if convicted, could be fined up to $25,000 a day for each day it failed to notify state authorities of the leak.
The charges accuse SoCalGas, a division of San Diego's Sempra Energy, of failing to report the release of hazardous materials following an underground pipeline rupture and discharge of air contaminants. The charges come on the same day that California state Attorney General Kamala Harris also sued the company on behalf of the state, alleging the utility of violating health and safety laws by failing to promptly control the escaping gas and report the leak to authorities, according to Reuters.
Los Angeles files criminal charges against SoCalGas over massive gas leak https://t.co/8TX9H50hbc
— Guardian US (@GuardianUS) February 3, 2016
"While we recognize that neither the criminal charges nor the civil lawsuits will offer the residents of Los Angeles County a complete solution, it is important that Southern California Gas Co. be held responsible for its criminal actions," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a written statement, Reuters reported.
The leak has not yet been stopped and has so far spewed 80,000 metric tons of methane, forcing the relocation of 4,401 households in the suburb of Porter Ranch, CNN reported. Several attempts to plug the leak have failed, and success might not be seen until late February or March, the governor’s office reportedly said. Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over the leak.
"The impact of this unprecedented gas leak is devastating to families in our state, our environment and our efforts to combat global warming. Southern California Gas Company must be held accountable," Harris said in a statement.