CPUC: SF's aging gas pipelines pose clear danger

September 13, 2012 6:37:56 PM PDT
Buried beneath the streets of San Francisco are miles and miles of brittle old gas pipelines, posing a fire danger not unlike what happened in the Great Earthquake of 1906.

PG&E claims it's been trying to replace more than 40 miles of old cast iron pipes buried beneath the city, but says San Francisco won't let them. While the city denies that claim, on Thursday state regulators sided with PG&E.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) says there used to be more than 800 miles of the cast iron pipeline running underneath California. That number is now down to 50, but 43 of those miles are in San Francisco.

State regulators are afraid of a situation like the one that happened in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In February 2011, a natural gas line ruptured in Allentown. The fatal explosion practically took out an entire neighborhood.

ABC7 spoke to Frank Lindh, the CPUC's General Counsel. He says he wrote a letter to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, saying PG&E is ready to replace the lines, but that they aren't being allowed to do so because of street paving ordinance. Lindh says the danger in San Francisco is much greater than it was in Pennsylvania, "In San Francisco that problem is compounded because not only do we have this cast iron pipe, but it's also an earthquake prone area. And we know from the horrible fire 1906 that when these gas mains rupture, they can burn the entire city."

Herrera released a statement Thursday saying that he's ready to meet with them immediately to fix the problem, but he also says he wants more information on what he calls the "alleged obstacles."

ABC7 spoke to Lindh after the city attorney's statement was released. Lindh says he was encouraged by this and said it was a step in the right direction.


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