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Obama administration wants to strengthen pipeline oversight in light of accidents such as San Bruno's

In the wake of the deadly gas explosion in Northern California and other recent pipeline breaks across the country, the Obama administration on Wednesday asked Congress to strengthen oversight of pipelines -- including increasing penalties for safety violations -- as the San Bruno incident drew increased interest from members of Congress.

The legislation would more than double, from $1 million to $2.5 million, the maximum fine for the most serious safety violations and increase pipeline inspection forces.

Congress is scheduled to recess in a few weeks to allow lawmakers to campaign before the November election, making it unlikely a safety bill can pass before next year. But Deputy  Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said at a Capitol Hill hearing on pipeline safety Wednesday that the department is considering imposing tougher rules, including requiring emergency flow-restricting devices in pipelines, extending regulations to currently exempt pipelines and identifying areas along pipelines that should receive additional protection.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) weighed in during the hearing, called in response to a Michigan oil pipeline spill, by pledging the "full support of the entire House to ensure that all that can be done is being done to prevent future incidents."

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) asked the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to hold a pipeline safety hearing in California, saying that lawmakers need to examine, among other things, "urbanization near existing high-pressure pipelines."

"How many of us live or work above a potential devastating explosion?" Garamendi asked.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in proposing legislation, said in a statement that his department "needs stronger authority to ensure the continued safety and reliability of our nation’s pipeline network,’’ citing recent oil pipeline failures near Marshall, Mich., and Romeoville, Ill. and the gas pipeline explosion in Northern California.

-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photos: Deadly gas explosion in San Bruno

Comments () | Archives (4)

MORE regulations aren't necessarily the answer; ENFORCEMENT of existing regulations is the key.

So where did the money the C.P.U.C. allowed PG&E to collect to replace the pipeline go?

I don't think the C.P.U.C. ever met a rate hike it didn't approve.

Stricter regulations are definately not needed, replacement of many old lines is needed though. The lines that have been failing were put in in the 50s and 60s before many of the new regulations were in use that and the years and years of constant high presures and stress will eventually cause the line to fail. Now days on new pipeline construction pretty much every gas companies procedures and specifications for propper safe and reliable construction and burrial of a pipeline is well above and beyond that of any DOT or government specification. Anyone who has worked on a large new construction pipeline job in the past 5 years knows how picky gas companies and pipeline contractors are about propper coating and bending procedures and making sure the pipe has no dents or damage to the coating or the pipe itself. Backfill procedures are also very closely followed to make sure the coating isn't damaged while returning spoil to the ditch. Also all welds are xrayed and coated before being allowed to be placed in the ditch. After everything is in the ground and burried a hydrostatic pressure test is performed with very detailed records kept of the entire test and any leaks are found and repaired then retested to assure the saftey of the line. The next thing that is done is dewater the pipe and send a smartpig through to check for any spots that may have been dented or damaged after the pipe was placed in the ground or during the test.

I would say the biggest safety issue is the old lines or even just sections of old lines that should be replaced, but instead of the government telling gas companies to replace them they just keep adding new regulations on construction of new lines which doesn't do anything to prevent a 50 year old pipeline from failing. The american public should be telling the government to require more of the old line to meet certain criteria and specifications and unsafe lines or sections of lines to be replaced, following existing right of ways where possible.

Not only would new replacement lines or replacement of sections of old lines increase the safety of many of the old outdated pipelines and the safety of the american public, it would create thousands of jobs for construction workers who have relied on pipeline construction throughout the years to go back to work instead of sitting at home unemployed like many people I know who have been in this industry for many more years than I have been and would help every small towns economy that has a pipeline project going near it by bringing hundreds of travelling workers to the area sometimes for months at a time, and employing some locals at the same time.

All in all its a win win to allow the construction of new lines and replace and repair old lines, it helps to increase the safety of the american public and it would put thousands of unemployed construction workers back to work helping to lower the national unemployment rate and stimulate the economy of many small towns throughout the country with outside money which would allow them to grow and flourish in the harsh economic conditions the world is currently in and that in turn would help to save countless other peoples jobs and businesses throughout the country.

Typical. The Fed is fanning hysteria and can’t wait to jump in. The State of California’s Public Utility Commission is just getting a investigation off the ground. There haven’t been any official preliminary findings released by CPUC, NTSB or PG&E. An official root cause analysis is some time down the road. Yet this administration interjects with familiar audacity and suggests increased civil penalties, more Federal inspectors accompanied by more regulations will prevent further incidents.
What’s wrong with find out the root cause and then develop a plan for corrective action if necessary?


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