Amended in Assembly April 18, 2016

Amended in Assembly March 18, 2016

California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 2748


Introduced by Assembly Member Gatto

February 19, 2016


An act to addbegin delete Sectionend deletebegin insert Sections 1544 andend insert 3484.5 to the Civil Code,begin insert and to amend Section 340.8 of, and to add Section 1021.3 to, the Code of Civil Procedure,end insert relating tobegin delete natural gas.end deletebegin insert environmental disaster.end insert

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 2748, as amended, Gatto. Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility: leak: claims for damage to property.

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Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including gas corporations. The Public Utilities Act prohibits any gas corporation from beginning the construction of, among other things, a line, plant, or system, or of any extension thereof, without having first obtained from the commission a certificate that the present or future public convenience and necessity require or will require that construction. Pursuant to existing law, the commission issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Southern California Gas Company for the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility.

end delete
begin delete

Existing law establishes the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources in the Department of Conservation and authorizes the State Oil and Gas Supervisor, with the approval of the Director of Conservation, to adopt rules and regulations that may be necessary to carry out the purposes for which the division was established. Pursuant to its existing authority, the supervisor has adopted onshore well regulations that are applicable, in part, to gas storage facilities.

end delete
begin insert

Existing law provides that an obligation is extinguished by a release given to the debtor by the creditor, upon a new consideration, or in writing, with or without new consideration. A general release does not extend to claims the creditor does not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release, which if known by him or her must have materially affected his or her settlement with the debtor.

end insert
begin insert

This bill would prohibit a payment or reimbursement, made in connection with an environmental disaster by the responsible polluter or any agent or entity related to the responsible polluter to any recipient, from being conditioned upon the release by the recipient of any claim unrelated to the environmental disaster or all future claims, or both.

end insert

Existing law defines a nuisance as anything injurious to health, indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, as specified. Existing law defines a public nuisance as a nuisance that affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals may be unequal, and makes every public nuisance a private nuisance as to those affected by it. Existing law provides that the abatement of a nuisance does not prejudice the right of any person to recover damages for its past existence.

This bill would create a right of action against Southern California Gas Company for any person owning real property in the Porter Ranch area, as defined, on October 23, 2015, who suffers a diminution in value of that real property resulting from the leakage of natural gas from the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility during 2015 and 2016.begin delete The right of action would accrue when the claimant first offers the property for sale or seeks refinancing of the property.end delete The bill would specify a mechanism for measuring the diminution in value.

This bill would make legislative findings and declarations as to the necessity of a special statute for the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility leak.

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Existing law establishes statutes of limitations for civil actions for injury or illness or wrongful death based upon exposure to a hazardous material or toxic substance other than asbestos, as specified. For injury or illness, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of injury, or 2 years after the plaintiff becomes aware of, or reasonably should have become aware of, an injury, the physical cause of the injury, and sufficient facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that the injury was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act of another, whichever occurs later. For wrongful death, the statute of limitations is no later than either 2 years from the date of the death of the plaintiff’s decedent, or 2 years from the first date on which the plaintiff is aware of, or reasonably should have become aware of, the physical cause of the death and sufficient facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that the death was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act of another, whichever occurs later.

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begin insert

This bill would change all those dates from 2 to 3 years.

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Under existing law, except as attorney’s fees are specifically provided for by statute, the measure and mode of compensation of attorneys is left to the agreement of the parties.

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This bill would authorize the court, in any action for private nuisance against an environmental polluter defendant arising out of an environmental disaster for which the defendant has been adjudged civilly liable, upon motion, to award reasonable attorneys’ fees to a prevailing plaintiff against the defendant.

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Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P3    1begin insert

begin insertSECTION 1.end insert  

end insert

begin insertSection 1544 is added to the end insertbegin insertCivil Codeend insertbegin insert, to read:end insert

begin insert
2

begin insert1544.end insert  

A payment or reimbursement made in connection with
3an environmental disaster by the responsible polluter or any agent
4or entity related to the responsible polluter to any recipient shall
5not be conditioned upon the release by the recipient of any claim
6unrelated to the environmental disaster or all future claims, or
7both.

end insert
8

begin deleteSECTION 1.end delete
9
begin insertSEC. 2.end insert  

Section 3484.5 is added to the Civil Code, to read:

10

3484.5.  

(a) As used in this section, “Porter Ranch area” has
11the same meaning as defined in the document titled “SS-25 Incident
12Aliso Canyon Gas Leak Odorous Emissions Mitigation Plan and
13Temporary Relocation Plan,” dated December 15, 2015, included
14as Exhibit A in the stipulation and order, filed December 24, 2015,
15with the superior court of the County of Los Angeles in the People
16of the State of California v. Southern California Gas Company,
P4    1Case No. BC602973, and including, but not limited to, the map
2titled “SoCalGas Complaints and SCAQMD Air Sampling
3Locations” located inbegin delete attachmentend deletebegin insert Attachmentend insert B of the plan
4document.

5(b) Any person owning real property in the Porter Ranch area
6on October 23, 2015, who suffers a diminution in value of that
7real property resulting from the leakage of natural gas from the
8Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility during 2015 and 2016 shall
9have a right of action against Southern California Gas Company
10for that diminution in value.begin delete The cause of action shall accrue when
11the owner first offers the property for sale or seeks refinancing of
12the property.end delete
The diminution in value shall be calculated by
13determining the value of the real property on October 22, 2015,
14identifying similarly priced real property in neighboring
15communities on that date, then comparing the value of the owner’s
16real propertybegin delete at the time the action accruesend deletebegin insert on June 1, 2016,end insert to the
17value of the properties in the neighboring communities that had
18been similarlybegin delete priced.end deletebegin insert priced, regardless of whether the owner has
19sold or refinanced the real property.end insert
The diminution in value shall
20be the value of the property in the Porter Ranch area onbegin delete the date
21the action accruesend delete
begin insert June 1, 2016,end insert subtracted from an average value
22onbegin delete the date the action accruesend deletebegin insert June 1, 2016,end insert of properties in
23neighboring communities that were priced similarly to the Porter
24Ranch area property as of October 22, 2015.

25(c) This section shall apply only to actions filed on and after
26January 1, 2017.

27begin insert

begin insertSEC. 3.end insert  

end insert

begin insertSection 340.8 of the end insertbegin insertCode of Civil Procedureend insertbegin insert is
28amended to read:end insert

29

340.8.  

(a) In any civil action for injury or illness based upon
30exposure to a hazardous material or toxic substance, the time for
31commencement of the action shall be no later than eitherbegin delete twoend deletebegin insert threeend insert
32 years from the date of injury, orbegin delete twoend deletebegin insert threeend insert years after the plaintiff
33becomes aware of, or reasonably should have become aware of,
34(1) an injury, (2) the physical cause of the injury, and (3) sufficient
35facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that the injury
36was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act of another,
37whichever occurs later.

38(b) In an action for the wrongful death of any plaintiff’s
39decedent, based upon exposure to a hazardous material or toxic
40substance, the time for commencement of an action shall be no
P5    1later than either (1)begin delete twoend deletebegin insert threeend insert years from the date of the death of
2the plaintiff’s decedent, or (2)begin delete twoend deletebegin insert threeend insert years from the first date
3on which the plaintiff is aware of, or reasonably should have
4become aware of, the physical cause of the death and sufficient
5facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that the death
6was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act of another,
7whichever occurs later.

8(c) For purposes of this section:

9(1) A “civil action for injury or illness based upon exposure to
10a hazardous material or toxic substance” does not include an action
11subject to Section 340.2 or 340.5.

12(2) Media reports regarding the hazardous material or toxic
13substance contamination do not, in and of themselves, constitute
14sufficient facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that
15the injury or death was caused or contributed to by the wrongful
16act of another.

17(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit, abrogate,
18or change the law in effect onbegin delete the effective date of this sectionend delete
19begin insert January 1, 2004,end insert with respect to actions not based upon exposure
20to a hazardous material or toxic substance.

21begin insert

begin insertSEC. 4.end insert  

end insert

begin insertSection 1021.3 is added to the end insertbegin insertCode of Civil Procedureend insertbegin insert,
22to read:end insert

begin insert
23

begin insert1021.3.end insert  

In any action for private nuisance against an
24environmental polluter defendant arising out of an environmental
25disaster for which the defendant has been adjudged civilly liable,
26the court, upon motion, may award reasonable attorneys’ fees to
27a prevailing plaintiff against the defendant.

end insert
28

begin deleteSEC. 2.end delete
29
begin insertSEC. 5.end insert  

The Legislature finds and declares that a special law
30is necessary and that a general law cannot be made applicable
31within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California
32Constitution in order to achieve just results while reducing court
33congestion as a result of the unique circumstances involving a
34major leak of natural gas from the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage
35Facility during 2015 and 2016.



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