Prosecutors charge utility with crimes for leak

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2016, file photo, a sign declares the boundary line of the Southern California Gas Co. gas fields where a gas well has been leaking methane daily near the community of Porter Ranch in Los Angeles. In trying to reassure the public there's no long-term health risk from the leak, Southern California Gas Co. has said in news releases and FAQs on its website that since the crisis began, just two air samples briefly showed elevated concentrations of the substance. But a closer look at the online data by The Associated Press and outside experts actually shows that a dozen samples from the Porter Ranch community contained at least twice the amount of benzene that Southern California air regulators consider the normal background level. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker, File)

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles prosecutors have filed misdemeanor criminal charges against a utility for failing to immediately report a massive gas leak in October.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Tuesday that Southern California Gas Co. needs to be held accountable for the leak that has been out of control nearly 15 weeks.

The criminal complaint charges the company with four misdemeanor counts. If convicted, the company could be fined up to $25,000 for each of the three days it didn’t notify the state Office of Emergency Services of the leak.

Lacey says the company also could be fined up to $1,000 per day for air pollution violations.

SoCalGas says it discovered the leak Oct. 23 at its Aliso Canyon storage facility.

The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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