Southern California Utility Settles 2015 Gas Leak Litigation, To Take $1.1B Charge

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Gas utility Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), a unit of Sempra Energy, said on Monday it has reached agreements that are expected to resolve substantially all civil litigation related to a 2015 natural gas storage facility leak.

As a result of the agreements, SoCalGas will record an after-tax charge of about $1.1 billion this month, the unit said.

A 2019 report, commissioned by two state regulatory agencies, found the California utility failed to investigate dozens of leaks over decades at the natural gas storage facility near Los Angeles.

Beginning October 2015, the faulty well at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility spewed more than 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas into the atmosphere until it was sealed 111 days later in February 2016.

The leaked gas, which sparked outcry and health worries in nearby communities, was enough to supply about 20 million U.S. homes for a day. More than 8,000 households and two schools were relocated during the leak.

SoCalGas said the settlement agreements were subject to obtaining roughly 97% participation among 36,000 individual plaintiffs, settlement with a class estimated to include at least 23,000 properties and the dismissal of named plaintiffs in a putative business class action.

Sempra Energy on Monday cut its full-year 2021 earnings-per-share forecast to between $3.83 and $4.43, from its previous range of $7.41 to $8.01.

(Reporting by Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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