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Gov. Jerry Brown approves gas-pipeline safety measures

A year after a natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a slew of measures to improve maintenance and oversight of such lines and enhance coordination between those responding to accidents.

"Pipeline operators and the Public Utilities Commission must take every possible step to keep it from happening again,” Brown said of the Sept. 9, 2010, explosion. "These bills protect California's communities by setting new standards for emergency preparedness, placing automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas and ensuring that gas companies pressure-test transmission lines.”

SB 44 requires the state Public Utilities Commission to set new rules for responding to pipeline accidents that pipeline operators would have to follow starting July 1, 2012. That bill is by state Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro).

The governor also signed SB 705, which clarifies the roles of the PUC and the state fire marshal in overseeing pipeline safety, and requires natural gas utilities to develop pipeline service and safety plans that address a long list of issues, including ways to minimize hazards. That bill is by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

Brown also put his signature on SB 216, which authorizes the PUC to require for some natural gas facilities automatic shut-off valves or valves that can be accessed by remote control. Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) authored that measure.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) introduced SB 879, which increases fines for violating PUC rules from $20,000 to $50,000. AB 56 by Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) creates new rules to cover requests by natural gas utilities to raise rates to pay for the costs of addressing safety issues.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

 
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