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Appeals Court Gives Residents 30 Days, Not 8, To Return Home After Porter Ranch Leak

A woman walks to her home in Porter Ranch, Calif., last month, after state regulatory officials announced that SoCalGas Co.'s leaking well had finally been plugged.

Backing a lower court's decision that extends a grace period for people displaced by a huge natural gas leak, an appeals court says Southern California Gas Co. should pay for temporary housing for an additional 30 days, rather than the eight-day period the company had planned.

The issue centers on the time frame for residents to return to the Porter Ranch community after state officials declared the area safe to inhabit again. Last month, SoCalGas announced it had finally succeeded in plugging a leak that had spewed some 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas into the air over several months.

From member station KPCC:

"The L.A. County lawyers argued that some of those who have already returned home to Porter Ranch are reporting health issues, so the gas company should be forced to continue paying to house them elsewhere while officials conduct additional air monitoring to confirm there is no health threat.

"SoCal Gas argued that the eight-day timeframe was sufficient because it was based on data showing that the air in and around Porter Ranch 'has returned to the typical air-quality conditions that existed prior to the leak.' "

Wednesday's ruling means that residents can remain in temporary housing until March 18.

In addition to seeking a longer period to resettle in their homes, Porter Ranch residents have also been pressing state legislators to shut down the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility that was the source of the leaked gas.

Residents are also asking officials to ensure that SoCal Gas pays for cleanup costs in the area. As CBS Los Angeles recently reported, some people who returned to their homes in Porter Ranch have found "goopy residue coating their homes inside and out."

In a bulletin to residents, the L.A. County public health department says the oily residue isn't the result of methane and other leaked gases, but comes from recent drilling that took place near the well.

"Residents should avoid contact with fruits, vegetables, and any surfaces that appear to be coated with an oily residue," the department says.

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