April 4th, 2016
The massive methane leak at a natural gas facility in Los Angeles was capped in February, but the political fallout is showing no signs of letting up.
Democrats in Washington, D.C., and California have ramped up efforts to unseat Republican Rep. Steve Knight, who represents the Simi Valley district where the incident occurred.
Knight’s leading Democratic challenger, Bryan Caforio, has attempted to seize on Knight’s response, criticizing the first-term Republican for waiting two months before visiting the Porter Ranch neighborhood after the leak began last October.
Democrats say Knight’s absence is a sign of his weak environmental record, a charge that Knight, who has since introduced legislation in response to the leak, fiercely denies.
But the accident, plus the likelihood of Donald Trump becoming the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, has put Knight firmly in national Democrats’ crosshairs.
Democrats appear increasingly confident Trump’s candidacy would significantly expand the number of House districts they could pick up. Some have even suggested that Republicans’ House majority could be in play. Democrats need to pick up 30 seats to take the majority — the same number of seats they flipped in the 2006 elections.
Knight is a prime test case. And last week, the head of the House Democratic campaign arm singled him out.
“We are seeing Bryan Caforio get stronger and stronger out there,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico said at a news conference.
“Trump’s rhetoric is not going to play well in those California races. And so that is an example of one that maybe wasn’t on everyone’s original map, but it is on our battlefield now in a very aggressive way.”
The leak at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon facility began in late October.
Due to various factors, including a missing safety valve, at least 80,000 metric tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, spewed from the well, one of 115 at the sprawling storage facility.
Noxious additives in the natural gas caused nearby residents in the affluent area to suffer health effects. About 7,000 residents temporarily left their homes. It took Southern California Gas more than 100 days to permanently cap the leak.
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