Speier urges to modernize gas shutoff systems

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, took action to try and increase government oversight of natural gas pipelines.

September 27, 2010 7:04:17 PM PDT
PG&E crews got their first look inside that ruptured pipeline, as Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, announced plans for tough new legislation to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

For the first time since the firestorm, PG&E crews got a visual look inside the pipeline. This happened after workers finished shoring up the underground opening this weekend.

They'll assess the condition of the line and make repairs to sections that may have been damaged. PG&E will also look at the pipe's valves which controlled the ruptured line.

Speier told ABC7 News after meeting with PG&E officials on Monday afternoon, that there are only two automatic shutoff valves on the transmission line infrastructure.

"It's on the part of the line that goes from Hwy 92 to Half Moon Bay. That's the only automatic valves they have in the entire system," she said.

Speier also learned there are nine remote shutoffs but she says PG&E couldn't tell her where they are.

"PG&E took one hour and 46 minutes to turn off the supply of gas," she said.

To remedy that, Speier announced she will introduce legislation to increase regulations and oversight of gas pipelines. The bill's main provision sets a deadline for utilities to install automatic or remote shut off valves on gas pipelines in high risk areas.

The Los Angeles times reported today that, "PG&E had a leak rate of 6.2 annually per 1,000 miles of high consequence or high risk area transmission pipes." That's "more than six times the average leak rate for the six largest utility operators in the country."

Jim Menard lives next to the pipeline and took pictures of the firestorm. He was shocked at the statistics.

"It's very disconcerting, all these leaks. PG&E should replace the pipes not just fix them," he said.

PG&E told ABC7 News it is reviewing the figures, adding it has a reporting procedure for leaks that may tougher than other utilities.

"So we don't yet know whether our self imposed strict standard is the same as all the other gas utilities in the country. So we want to make sure it's an apples to apples comparison,"

Speier is asking PG&E to either cap that pipeline permanently or remove it from the residential areas of San Bruno. She added that the National Transportation Safety Bureau has finally finished documenting all of the evidence that ruptured pipeline with its fractures and now comes the arduous task of testing the samples to find out what caused the explosion.


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