A Los Angeles Superior Court judge will hear arguments this afternoon regarding whether SoCalGas should be required to continue paying for the relocation of residents displaced as a result of the October 2015 Aliso Canyon gas well blowout. The hearing follows the reversal by the California Court of Appeal of another superior court judge who rejected Los Angeles County’s request for additional time before residents are asked to return to their homes.
The Honorable John Wiley, Jr. will hear from Plaintiffs and gas company lawyers regarding a number of additional issues, including the right of experts jointly retained by the law firms representing residents to inspect the site or whether the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has exclusive jurisdiction over such discovery. The motions will be heard on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 2 p.m. in Room 222 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, 111 N. Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers have requested access to the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility to observe evidence preservation taking place now and a lifting of the stay on discovery to allow the parties to negotiate an inspection protocol in order to determine the nature of historical problems and chemicals spewing from the blowout.
The CPUC asserts it has exclusive jurisdiction around well SS-25, the well that blew out on October 23, 2015, and cannot allow access to the site area because of “concerns for safety.” Interestingly, residents are being asked to return home since the site is “safe.” In briefs filed with the court before the hearing, CPUC attorneys are attempting to block all counsel and jointly retained experts representing residents of Porter Ranch from having physical access to the SS-25 well site so as to observe investigation activities.
“The California PUC is blocking all outside experts representing Porter Ranch residents from investigating the site of the blowout,” said attorney R. Rex Parris. “CPUC is further taking the position that no viewing through the remote process can be videotaped. The entire process suggests that methane continues to vent from the facility, or SoCalGas lost control of the entire facility as a result of the blowout and continuing surface express. It appears SoCalGas and the CPUC do not want experts and counsel representing the residents of Porter Ranch to discover the facts through their noses, handheld devices, and infrared cameras.”
The R. Rex Parris Law Firm has been working with attorneys from Morgan & Morgan, Panish Shea & Boyle, Weitz & Luxenberg, Keisel Law, Baron & Budd, and Boucher LLP on behalf of the residents and families impacted by the Aliso Canyon blowout and have retained the experts who are investigating the root causes of the blowout and assessing the site inspection protocols. These firms all join in the motions to lift the stay on discovery and to require continued funding by SoCalGas for relocation of families.