Los Angeles (AFP) - California's attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the company behind a massive natural gas leak near Los Angeles that has forced thousands to leave their homes.
The suit, made public Tuesday, alleges that Southern California Gas Company violated state health and safety laws by failing to promptly contain the leak that was detected in October, and to report it to authorities.
"The impact of this unprecedented gas leak is devastating to families in our state, our environment, and our efforts to combat global warming," Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement.
"Southern California Gas Company must be held accountable."
Harris added that the methane spewing from a broken pipeline at the company's Aliso Canyon facility in Porter Ranch would severely impact California's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The leak, the biggest in California's history, has forced nearly 4,500 families living in the affluent Porter Ranch area to relocate, while some 1,200 additional households are in the process of doing so.
Repeated efforts to stop the leak by pumping liquid and mud down the stricken well have failed, and the gas company is drilling a relief well to intercept and plug the damaged well.
The operation is expected to take until late February or March.
The lawsuit filed by the attorney general seeks unspecified civil penalties and follows similar action taken in December by the Los Angeles city attorney.
Many Porter Ranch residents have also joined a class action suit against the gas company.