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Utility: California Gas Leak To Be Stopped Ahead Of Schedule

Michael Owen Baker / AP

Porter Ranch Estates sit at the foothills near a Southern California Gas Co. gas well that has been leaking methane daily near the community Porter Ranch, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.

Michael Owen Baker / AP

(AP) - A utility company says it expects to stop a huge natural gas leak in Southern California ahead of schedule - by the end of February or sooner.

A statement released Monday by SoCalGas also says the company has abandoned efforts to trap and burn the gas that has been leaking for 12 weeks over fears that it could not be done safely. State regulators had been scheduled to vote later this week on that plan, which was designed to give quicker relief to sickened residents in Porter Ranch.

The utility says a relief well that it began drilling in early December should reach the bottom of the 8,500-foot-deep well by late February or sooner, at which time it will be permanently taken out of service.

Earlier estimates put the date sometime in March.