The largest natural gas leak to be recorded in the history of the fossil fuel era was discovered October 23, 2015, in California’s Porter Ranch neighborhood.
Since then, two schools have been relocated, a no-fly zone has been declared, and thousands of residents are reporting headaches and trouble breathing. The leak continues to dump millions of cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere every day with a months-long plan to plug the leak, the details of which are still being worked out.
Basically, we are looking at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill 2.0, natural gas edition.
This leak flew under the radar of media for weeks, and some speculate it was the lack of a visual representation of this devastation — methane is an invisible gas that can only be seen on infrared. Now that we have that infrared picture, courtesy of the Environmental Defense Fund, there can be no denying the magnitude of this human-caused disaster:
The Oceans 8 Films production team is no stranger to disasters of this epic magnitude, having documented the BP oil spill in our film After the Spill. We know there will be all the same heartbreaking stories of loss and illness. We were recently in California filming for Dear President Obama, talking to the victims of an oil spill on the beloved Refugio Beach.
The Porter Ranch story is not a new one, but it is one of a much bigger scale. With fracking-caused earthquakes and accidents that kill workers and endanger the local population, humankind is risking and causing bigger and bigger disasters in the quest for fossil fuel energy. At the same time, a clear path toward a future of renewable energy is available, but not taken, due to rich and powerful interests exerting their influence on policymakers and the public.
How many more Porter Ranches and Deepwater Horizons will it take? How many earthquakes, pipeline explosions, well blowouts and oil train derailments will it take for the people to stand up and say, “Keep it in the ground”?
Over the coming months of the mitigation plan, as the equivalent of several coal power plants’ worth of emissions get pumped into California’s skies on a daily basis, we will have plenty of time to discuss it.