The Latest: Judge gives gas leak evacuees longer to return

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 6:36 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on natural gas leak that sickened Los Angeles residents and forced thousands from their homes (all times local):

3 p.m.

A judge has ordered a gas company to continue paying to house Los Angeles residents displaced by the largest known methane leak in U.S. history.

A spokesman for a Los Angeles county supervisor said a Superior Court judge issued an order Thursday that requires the Southern California Gas Co. to pay for short-term housing until March 18.

The gas company had agreed under a court settlement to pay until Thursday for residents staying in hotels and with family and friends.

Lawyers for the county argued that although the leaking well has been capped, more time is needed to test that the air is safe in the San Fernando Valley.

The 16-week leak sickened residents and uprooted 6,400 families. Some who have returned home have complained of ongoing symptoms.

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11:01 a.m.

Scientists say a gas leak that forced thousands of people from their Los Angeles homes was the largest reported release of climate-changing methane in U.S. history.

A study published Thursday in the journal Science says the Southern California Gas Co. leak spewed more than 100,000 tons of methane over 16 weeks.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Stephen Conley, an atmospheric scientist at University of California, Davis, says that equals the weight of two aircraft carriers and is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from 572,000 cars in a year.

Conley measured the release by flying a small plane through the invisible plume on 13 flights over the San Fernando Valley since November.

Conley says he couldn't believe how high the methane readings were when he first flew through the plume. He says he thought there was a problem with his instruments.