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Sunday, March 3, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pipeline Protection Bills Signed Into Law

SACRAMENTO (CN) - Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law bills to strengthen maintenance and oversight of natural gas pipelines, and coordinate actions between pipeline operators and first responders. The bills came in response to the Sept. 10, 2010 explosion in San Bruno that leveled a neighborhood, killed eight people and injured dozens.

"We learned very important lessons from the tragic explosion in San Bruno," Brown said upon signing the bills on Friday. "Pipeline operators and the Public Utilities Commission must take every possible step to keep it from happening again.

"These bills protect California's communities by setting new standards for emergency preparedness, placing automatic shutoff valves in vulnerable areas and ensuring that gas companies pressure-test transmission lines."

The National Transportation Safety Board, which issued its final report on the disaster this month, said a poorly welded pipeline caused the explosion, which destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70 others.

The pipeline was laid in 1956 and the neighborhood was built over it.

The NTSB report also blamed Pacific Gas and Electric, California's largest utility. The report said: "PG&E took 95 minutes to stop the flow of gas and to isolate the rupture site - a response time that was excessively long and contributed to the extent and severity of property damage and increased the life-threatening risks to the residents and emergency responders."

The report said PG&E's lack of a detailed procedure for responding to large-scale disasters exacerbated the situation, and that "the use of either automatic shutoff valves or remote control valves would have reduced the amount of time taken to stop the flow of gas."

Two of the new bills require shutoff valves to prevent a similar situation from occurring again: AB 56 by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and SB 216 by state Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Brown also signed SB 44 by state Senator Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, SB 705 by state Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and SB 879 by state Senator Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima.

PG&E faces an avalanche of lawsuits stemming from the explosion. The first of the trials are scheduled to begin July 23, 2012.

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