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Boxer and Feinstein ask federal regulators to order inspection of gas pipelines

California's senators called Monday on federal regulators to order inspections of all interstate natural gas pipelines in the state, with a priority on those that run near residential areas.

In a letter to the administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein wrote: "Californians must feel confident that their communities are safe and that the regulatory agencies responsible for maintaining natural gas pipelines are doing everything possible to guarantee their safety. It is critical that the public's confidence is restored and that utilities are held accountable for the safety of their pipelines."

The senators noted that there are 1,508 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines in the state under the jurisdiction of federal regulators. The California Public Utilities Commission, which supervises intrastate pipelines, like the one that exploded Thursday in San Bruno, plans to order Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to reinspect its natural gas network.

The company has already completed a leak survey of all three transmission lines that run through the San Francisco peninsula and is preparing to work with the state utilities commission to devise a plan to inspect the remainder of its 5,724 miles of transmission lines.

A pipeline running 51.5 miles from Milpitas to San Francisco through San Bruno ruptured Thursday, sending a plume of flames shooting into the air and killing at least four people.

Boxer and Feinstein, who have toured the heavily damaged Crestmoor neighborhood, asked federal pipeline regulators to provide a list of cities and counties in California where these pipelines are located, dates of installation and upgrades of pipelines, and a schedule of past and future inspections to make sure the pipelines are being maintained properly.

-- John Hoeffel in San Bruno

Comments () | Archives (2)

I know people are going to want to hold PG&E accountable. And, it should be held accountable in proportion to its failings.

However, I hope this also opens an examination of the Public's part in the state of our underground infrastructure. The Public's insistence on low utility rates and low tolerance for inconvenience has resulted in deferred maintenance on, not just natural gas lines, but water and sewer lines throughout California.

Most of the State's underground infrastructure was installed decades ago. And its old. And old things break. And we've built roads and buildings on top of it all. Which makes it difficult to find the problem areas, let alone, make repairs.
Even with sufficient funds and a full inspection of pipelines, making the actual repairs is going to be inconvenient, messy and expensive.

It's one thing to point fingers at PG&E, but after the dust settles, make sure that natural gas rates are sufficient to pay for required repair and maintenance. And next time you're irritated by the noise or are caught up in a traffic delay of a crew working on a pipeline, give them a smile and a wave. Fixing California's aging infrastructure is good for all of us.

Too little, too late


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