Porter Ranch Gas Blowout

PhotographerHannah Benet
Prize3rd Place in People / Other_P
Entry Description

These images were taken in my hometown of Porter Ranch, CA, during the largest methane leak in the history of the United States. From October 2015 to late February 2016, approximately 100,000 metric tons of methane spewed out own a blown out well at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch. Initially the gas company said that the gas was harmless. Then residents started experiencing symptoms including rashes, nausea, headaches, and severe nosebleeds. Children were especially vulnerable. Eventually schools were shut down and families were relocated for several months. The carbon footprint of the Porter Ranch Gas Blowout is bigger than the BP oil spill; however, it lacked dramatic imagery because the leaking gas was invisible. These photos were taken a few weeks before the blowout was finally capped. All of the kids in the photos are from Porter Ranch and surrounding communities impacted by the blowout.

Story

This series is about bringing visibility to an invisible environmental disaster: The Porter Ranch Gas Blowout. Porter Ranch is a suburb of Los Angeles and my hometown. Between October 2015 and late February 2016, an estimated 100,000 metric tons of methane and other gases (some poisonous) spewed out of a blown out well next to our homes. Initially the gas company responsible reassured the community that the gas was harmless. Then people started experiencing symptoms including headaches, nausea, rashes, and uncontrollable nosebleeds. Children were especially vulnerable. In late November, Los Angeles county health officials ordered Southern California Gas Co. to help residents relocate. The air in Porter Ranch had been toxic for over a month. In mid-December, Los Angeles Unified school District authorized the shut down of two schools in Porter Ranch. Teachers and young students were breathing toxic air and getting sick for two months. Outside of the Porter Ranch bubble, this disaster received little media attention. The blowout fails to have the same type of dramatic imagery as other environmental catastrophes such as the BP oil spill or the mining disaster in Brazil. The poisonous gas is invisible. These images were taken in Porter Ranch during the blowout. All of the kids in the photos are from Porter Ranch and surrounding communities impacted. The blowout was finally plugged a few weeks after I shot this series. Some residents have returned to normalcy. Others are still in temporary housing because they still get sick every time they enter their homes. Schools are still shut down and set to reopen in fall 2016. A movement to shut down the facility responsible is in motion.