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Gov. Brown expected to soon sign pipeline bill

September 6, 2011 12:26:50 AM PDT
This Friday marks the somber anniversary of the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion. One year later, two California legislators are backing state and federal legislation to strengthen safety standards for gas pipelines in California and the United States and force PG&E to be more accountable.

It was almost a year ago that the gas pipeline under a San Bruno neighborhood exploded destroying 38 homes. The scars still show in the neighborhood. The effect on many of its residents is not as noticeable but just as traumatic.

"Because of it we lost eight people here in San Bruno -- friends, relatives, family members -- destroyed a whole neighborhood and traumatized a city forever," said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane who is hoping that the California Senate will pass AB56. Introduced last year by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, it would require PG&E to comply with several safety requirements for all its pipelines in California.

"It all has to be done. Automatic and remote control shut-off valves, much better inspection procedures inline testing, it's all there," said Ruane.

It took PG&E 95 minutes to find and close the shut-off valves for the blazing pipeline. Phil Piserchio, who lives near the blast site on Claremont Drive, lost neighbors to the blast. He wonders why PG&E would have to be forced to install those valves.

"That would have saved 90 minutes, that would have saved? you can calculate that, it would have saved how many millions of dollars and not to mention lives," said Piserchio.

Hill says his bill is essential. The National Transportation Safety Board called PG&E's compliance with regulations "a litany of failures." He only has to look as far as the gas fire that destroyed a townhouse in Cupertino last week to know how badly regulations are needed.

"It's another example, sadly, that the fact that plastic pipe was deficient, that it was flawed, and that it had problems before, it was well-known, and it was well-known to PG&E but they did nothing about it and it's similar to this issue in San Bruno."

The bill would not allow PG&E to pass along any penalties and fines imposed by regulators to rate-payers.

Hill hopes legislation will be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown before Friday. the one-year anniversary of the explosion and fire that destroyed the neighborhood.


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