“The gas company offered us a one-bedroom hotel,” says Christine. “They knew we have five kids and two dogs. How can seven of us fit into one room? How can I feed my kids without a kitchen?”
Their two-year-old daughter, who has never experienced breathing issues, spent four nights in ICU with upper respiratory symptoms. The younger Katz children complained of headaches; the neighbors’ kids, Christine’s husband Brian and their one-year-old had nosebleeds, and Christine felt dizzy and sick. Their two-year-old got a rash.
Clearly, the situation was worsening. Brian called SoCalGas again and this time they offered the Katz family a two-bedroom hotel. No pets allowed. “We would have taken their offer if we knew how long it would be - we would consider staying a week and putting our dogs in a kennel but no one had any answers,” Christine explains.
Next up, they called a lawyer. With the help of attorney Patricia K. Oliver of the R. Rex Parris Law Firm, they got in touch with a realtor. Attorney R. Rex Parris, who has filed a Porter Ranch gas leak lawsuit on behalf of victims, said that “Families need a house, not a hotel room.”
“We are gradually settling into a house in Newberry Park and SoCalGas is footing the bill, but they don’t even know how long it will take to fix the gas leak,” says Christine. “We moved some of our personal belongings here but it certainly doesn’t feel like Merry Christmas - we won’t have a Christmas tree this year.”
Christine says that no one has yet linked the community’s ongoing health problems with the gas leak. She thinks that health officials are very cautious, but one doctor told her that the air they are breathing is likely causing post-nasal drip and earache. Attorney Patricia Oliver isn’t so cautious.
“What SoCal Gas is doing to kids is absolutely deplorable… kids are being poisoned, and they’re doing nothing about it.”
The Katzes relocated during winter break and in the New Year, the five children will get bused to a new school. It has been an upheaval for the entire community and still the Governor of California has done nothing. Christine, with the help of her lawyer, has started a petition online with the intent that Governor Brown will acknowledge the Porter Ranch community and declare a state of emergency.
“Our goal with this petition is to get more people aware of the Porter Ranch situation and the severity of the gas leak,” Christine explains. “Some people don’t want to face the problem, some people are in denial. And some of our neighbors are trusting the wrong people - those who say this gas leak is not harmful.
“Of course everyone has a personal choice but they should have options. Everyone’s circumstances are different: some people can deal with a hotel room, they can pretend it’s a mini-vacation. Or they can move into a house, like we did.”
Christine is hopeful that more people will sign the petition and Governor Brown will address the community. If and when he does declare a state of emergency, Christine has listed on her petition how it can help:
The citizens of Porter Ranch could have access to the following:
• Incentives to landlords to enter into short-term leases, including premiums, if necessary to provide comparable housing.
• Immediate cash compensation for those who cannot be immediately moved, upon request, to comparable housing.
• Provision of out-of-pocket health-related costs to relocated residents or those declining relocation to assess current or ongoing health effects.
• Providing moving companies to help relocate residents.
• Private security patrols 24/7 for vacant residences so as not to put an undue burden on Los Angeles Police Department.
• Provision of maintenance and landscaping services for vacated properties.
• Monetary consideration and accommodation for residents who receive assisted nursing services in their homes.
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• The cessation of billing all residents in the affected area for natural gas services until the leak is fixed.
• Prevent price gouging on rental units in neighboring cities.
• Temporary deferment of rent payments and mortgage payments.
“This gas leak is like a bad nightmare,” says Christine. “Our neighborhood is pretty much a ghost town and we still don’t know the long-term effects for us or the environment. No one knows. We are basically guinea pigs to the gas company.
“The wells are too close to us so if you have to relocate, make sure you stay somewhere safe. I want to breathe clean air. Don’t you?”