Firefighters Sue Gas Co. Over Aliso Canyon Leak

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A group of Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters assigned to Porter Ranch during the 2015-16 Aliso Canyon methane leak -- the biggest in U.S. history -- sued the Southern California Gas Co. today, claiming the utility knowingly exposed them to hazardous levels of known toxins like benzene and formaldehyde.

In late January 2016, SoCalGas partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to tell the firefighters at Station 28 in Porter Ranch that the gas was “not toxic,” according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Department of Public Health employees told the LAFD there were no risks to their health, assured the LAFD of the safety of the gas and its constituents and told the firefighters odorants caused short-term irritation to people who are sensitive to odors, according to the complaint.

Within less than six weeks, the Department of Public Health knew its own employees suffered from the same health problems when going to Porter Ranch, but department officials never returned to let the firefighters know of the health risks, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges SoCalGas knew its statements were false and that it had known for at least two decades gas transported to Aliso Canyon via pipelines had benzene, a known carcinogen.

A specific damage figure was not cited in the lawsuit which also names SoCalGas' parent company, Sempra Energy, as a defendant.

“The brave men and women who choose to be firefighters risk their lives every day in order to keep us safe,” said attorney Rex Parris, whose firm, the Parris Law Firm, filed the suit.

“SoCalGas hid the truth from these brave souls in order to keep all of us in the dark. Now, the bravery of these firefighters has been rewarded with chronic, often permanent illness by SoCalGas' lies.”

Melissa Bailey of Southern California Gas Company's Office of Media and Public Information told City News Service, “We have been advised that a complaint has been filed this evening against SoCalGas and Sempra on behalf of certain first responders relating to the Aliso Canyon gas leak of 2015. We have not been served with the complaint and have not yet had the opportunity to review it.”

Photo: Getty Images

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