Englander is one of a growing number of local officials and community members who urged the governor to act. Resident Matt Pakucko is another. He leads a community group that has been pushing for the state declaration and said he cried when he heard about the order.
Pakucko, speaking from a hotel where the gas company had moved him and his girlfriend, said he faced doubts from his community about pressing the governor to declare an emergency.
"I'm not worried about being validated or vindicated, but that people get what they need," he said. "And that's what we've been pushing for."
The massive leak amounts to about a quarter of the state's total output of methane, one of the most potent gases in climate change. The site is one of the country's largest underground natural-gas storage facilities and can hold enough natural gas to fuel Southern California for a month.
The crisis has threatened growing embarrassment for Brown, an international advocate of reducing the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels.
Brown toured the site of the leak for the first time earlier this week and met privately with residents in the area. The governor previously resisted local calls for a state declaration, saying he wanted to make sure the utility, rather than the state, bore the financial cost.
In his order, the governor said that California expected the utility to pay expenses related to the leak and that the state would ensure the utility's customers were protected from paying higher rates as a result.