Residents concerned about pipeline pressure

November 24, 2010 12:55:38 AM PST
In San Bruno, turning up the thermostat to deal with the cold is a loaded decision. PG&E turned the pressure down on three pipelines on the peninsula after September's explosion and gun-shy residents like it that way.

It was a freezing night, but some San Bruno residents were hesitant to heat their homes. Instead of bringing comfort, it scares them.

Robert Riechel is keeping the temperature in his house lower than he usually would on a cold night in the hopes of keeping PG&E from turning up the pressure on pipeline No. 101.

"I don't want it turned up. If I have to put on an extra blanket, so be it," says Riechel.

His house is 15 feet from the pipeline that's parallel to the one that exploded. His neighbor across the street is also nervous.

"If we have to be a little colder in our homes, at least we have homes to be a little colder in," says Alice Barnes.

Barnes said when she turned on the heat for the first time, she thought of the eight people who died and 37 homes that were destroyed in September when a pipeline ruptured and exploded. In response to the tragedy, PG&E reduced the pressure on that line and two others by 20 percent. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, has been lobbying PG&E to keep it that way.

"This is important and we can't be reckless or irresponsible in this," says Hill.

"We've heard loud and clear the safety concerns that the residents in San Bruno have as well as our regulators and state elected leaders," says PG&E spokesperson Katie Romans.

Romans says even though this will be the coldest week of the season so far and demand will be high, the utility will not increase the pressure on the pipelines running through San Bruno until it is determined safe.

"I'm happy about that and I think the citizens of San Bruno are happy about that decision as well. I'm pleased," says Hill.

Hill and some of the residents are wondering if PG&E can handle this demand, in this kind of weather, without raising the pressure, why raise it at all? Romans says the utility might not raise it again. PG&E is assessing the situation.


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