Originally posted at the Los Angeles Daily News.
By Rep. Steve Knight.
In late October, SoCalGas crews discovered a leak at one of the natural gas storage wells at its Aliso Canyon storage field. Shortly thereafter, residents of the Porter Ranch community began reporting unpleasant odors and expressed concerns about potential health effects. SoCalGas announced that it was in the process of fixing the leak, but realistically it could not be completely stopped until late February or early March.
When I first heard about the incident, I immediately started thinking of ways I could help. My priority was to ensure that this situation is resolved as quickly and effectively as possible, and to take any steps that would mitigate the effects of the gas leak and protect the residents of Porter Ranch.
I personally called the relevant organizations and agencies, from Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s office to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, who knew about the leak as soon as it was reported. We asked if there was any help they needed from a congressional office, and they all told us the same thing: the issue was being handled by the appropriate county and state agencies, and that fixing the well would simply take time. I concluded that involving any federal bureaucracy, like the Environmental Protection Agency, would not speed up the relief well drilling, but in all likelihood would actually hinder the ongoing process.
That left me with two options: on the one hand, I could write a letter and introduce some sort of legislation, knowing that at best it would accomplish nothing, and at worse it would put people further into harm’s way. This would get me headlines and allow me to say that I had done something, but at what cost? The other option, the one I chose, was to lead on the issue quietly and to deliver real solutions for the people of Porter Ranch. For example, when a resident asked me if there was anything we could do about the community’s schools, I called the acting superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District to discuss the possibility. The next day, LAUSD announced that the students would be temporarily relocated come January. I also instructed my staff to attend the regular Neighborhood Council meetings, where they listened to the members of the community and heard their concerns.
That does not mean that there aren’t people who have chosen the other path, and now seek to politicize the suffering of the Porter Ranch community. Currently, a circus of federal bureaucrats and public speakers set up shop there, capitalizing on the fears of the residents while doing little to actually help them. They are making quite a splash with the media, but I am at a loss as to what tangible benefits they are offering the people who have had to leave their homes and workplaces.
As long as this leak continues to affect the residents of Porter Ranch, I will continue to be in contact with all relevant organizations and to take practical steps to resolve the issue. I will continue to post updates as I receive them on my website . I will also pursue legislation to ensure that incidents like this one don’t ever occur again. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions regarding relocation or relief, please call my office and we will point you in the right direction.
Sometimes leadership doesn’t involve grandstanding and politicking. It involves swift, informed action that doesn’t necessarily grab headlines, but actually solves a problem. That is what the people of Porter Ranch really need.
Congressman Steve Knight, R-Santa Clarita, represents California’s 25th District, including Porter Ranch.