LOS ANGELES, June 4, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Attorneys for Kenneth Bruno, a longtime Program Manager overseeing the Gas & Safety Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), have filed a lawsuit against Sempra Energy and SoCalGas claiming the utility giant intentionally violated CPUC's Rule 30 standard that prohibits natural gas from having any hazardous substances at concentrations which would present a health and/or safety hazard to Utility employees and/or the general public.
Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the complaint alleges Sempra Energy and SoCalGas knowingly exposed Mr. Bruno to dangerously high levels of cancer-causing chemicals when he was deployed to the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility to monitor the capping of well SS-25, the source of the October 2015 gas well blowout in Porter Ranch. Rather than fully prepare Mr. Bruno for exposure to known carcinogens such as benzene, radon, toluene, and formaldehyde , Sempra simply told him to wear "appropriate footwear and a hard hat." Not only did utility executives fail to advise Mr. Bruno to wear a respirator as well as protective equipment and clothing to prevent eye contact and limit skin exposure, they failed to instruct him to remove his contaminated clothes before returning to his car to go home to his family. As a result of his repeated and unprotected exposure to these toxins, Mr. Bruno now suffers from a rare blood cancer -- hairy cell leukemia -- which is a known risk of benzene exposure.
"Time and again, Mr. Bruno unknowingly walked into a gas chamber and he's now suffering the health effects because of it," said PARRIS Law Firm attorney R. Rex Parris. "Exposing Mr. Bruno to outrageously high levels of known toxins is a despicable act, which is why we're filing assault and battery charges against Sempra and SoCalGas. What's even more terrible is SoCalGas' failure to alert Mr. Bruno of his exposure to toxic chemicals which resulted in him unknowingly bringing those chemicals home to his kids."
Mr. Bruno also was tasked with hiring Blade Energy Partners to investigate the root cause of the Aliso Canyon blowout. According to the lawsuit, Sempra and SoCalGas tried to block Blade from obtaining key evidence about the cause of the blowout by pouring cement into the underground piping and tubing of well SS-25. Mr. Bruno stopped Sempra and SoCalGas from following through with their plan because it would have guaranteed the destruction of vital evidence.
"SoCalGas and Sempra went to great lengths to conceal its negligence which resulted in the largest methane leak in U.S. history," said Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorney Brian Panish. "From failing to immediately warn the public of the blowout, to deceiving Mr. Bruno and thousands of nearby residents about the dangers associated with the chemical composition levels in the gas emitting from well SS-25, the utility's lack of transparency is a shameful indicator that putting profits over the safety of the people remained the company's priority, even in the most catastrophic of circumstances."
"It's time for Sempra to fess up to the life-threatening dangers its Aliso Canyon facility poses to its employees and the public at large," added Parris. "They're gambling with people's lives, and it has to stop!"
Additional allegations by Plaintiff against Sempra Energy and SoCalGas include the following:
- Sempra knew before the blowout that the benzene levels in gas at Aliso Canyon exceeded 447 ppm and conservatively averaged 220 ppm. Sempra's executives knew that if they gave Mr. Bruno accurate information, he would be required to disclose it to thousands of people in the north San Fernando Valley.
- Betraying Mr. Bruno when Sempra and SoCalGas strategically decided not to warn him that the average benzene levels before the blowout were 44 times higher than the 15-minute average allowed by CalOSHA.
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