Proposed law aims to add safety measures to gas pipes after deadly Calif. blastSan Bruno and Millbrae Fire Chief Dennis Haag said stopping the flow of gas earlier would have reduced the amount of damage
By Joshua Melvin
The San Mateo County Times via The Contra Costa Times
SAN BRUNO, Calif. — Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, announced this morning legislation that would force natural gas pipeline operators across the country to equip their lines with automatic shut off valves and require the utilities to tell homeowners if they live near gas mains.
She unveiled the legislation, which is to be introduced Tuesday, while standing in front of the crater left by the explosion of Pacfic Gas and Electric Co.'s line no. 132 in a San Bruno neighborhood. The blast and subsequent fire killed seven people and destroyed 37 homes.
"We have an aging natural gas pipeline running through our communities," said Speier as trucks carrying debris at the site worked in the distance. "Are the lines too old, are they safe?"
If the bill becomes law, utilities would have to notify people who live with 2,000 feet of a gas transmission line. The companies would also be forced to install automatic or remote shut off valves for pipes that run through neighborhoods or areas at risk of seismic activity.
PG&E workers had to manually shut off the flow of gas to line 132, a process the utility has said took an hour and 46 minutes.
San Bruno and Millbrae Fire Chief Dennis Haag said stopping the flow of gas earlier would have reduced the amount of damage.
"Without that fuel source we could have made an offensive attack much sooner that we did," said Haag. "We were in defensive mode until the shut off was completed."
Under the legislation, utilities would also have to internally inspect their pipelines, possible using devices that are known in the industry as "pigs." The companies would have to do the inspections every five years and, if they don't, operating gas lines at high pressure would be prohibited.
Because the line in San Bruno is of different sizes and contains some curves, that type of inspection would not have been possible, Speier said. She added that the line that blew up should be removed from the neighborhood.
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