On Oct. 23, 2015 a huge gas leak was reported by the Southern California Gas Company.
Although the company refuses to report the exact amount of methane that was released, the California State Air Resources Board estimates about 94,500 metric tons of gas entered the atmosphere.
This amount of methane in the atmosphere will have approximately the same impact as 1.7 million cars on the road for a year.
While there have been endeavors to change the devastating environmental impact corporations like SoCal Gas Co. have, they are not enough to stop the corporate political influence that has led to this leak and events like it. Both individuals and politicians need to make a sustained effort to change things for the better.
Apart from the extreme environmental impacts, about 1,800 families have been relocated as a result of the leak at SoCal Gas Co.’s expense. Many residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood in Los Angeles reported symptoms including headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness and nausea.
Imagine a gas leak on the Guilford College campus that led to the evacuation of all students housed on campus. That still falls about 200 homes short of the number of families who moved due to this event.
The SoCal Gas Co. storage facility does not appear to have violated any regulations prior to its leak although there continues to be an ongoing investigation. This means that the standards for underground storage are extremely low. Oil and gas companies have been given very few requirements for managing the environmental impacts of their spaces.
“The evacuation of about 1,800 homes is not something to overlook and figure that it’s an easy solution,” said senior Leah Meservey.
“Capitalism, the lead force of America, creates the autonomy in America’s mindset to choose to ignore how problems in the environment will deeply affect us and future generations.
“If the U.S. continues to allow global methane emissions as a tool to help boost American economy, then it’s going to become harder and harder to find solutions that are efficient and not biased.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown has issued an emergency order since the leak. The order calls for stricter regulation of gas storage facilities. Although this is not a national fix, it is a step in the right direction for environmentally-friendly policy.
In the U.S., large corporations have found their way into the government through the lobbying structure. Low maintenance standards, such as the ones demonstrated by the Porter Ranch methane leak, are only one of many detrimental results from corporate lobbying and campaign donations.
Although there is little that can be done from Greensboro to help with the LA methane leak, it is important to support environmental groups and environmentally-friendly policies.
Repealing the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission court ruling could be a partial solution to the environmental issues that corporations like the SoCal Gas Co. methane leak have caused. The ruling greatly increased the amount of money a corporation could contribute to political campaigns by deeming money a form of speech protected by the first amendment.
Simply increasing standards in California on the maintenance of gas and oil storage will not decrease the environmental impacts of disasters like this leak across the country. There needs to be a fundamental change in the lawmaking process surrounding environmental issues and in the attitudes of all people towards the environment.