Boxer, Feinstein Hold Pipeline Hearing - NBC Bay Area

Boxer, Feinstein Hold Pipeline Hearing

The explosion in San Bruno has implication for the entire country and today California's two senators raised that awareness.



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    They were a team Tuesday in D.C.

    California's U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein  spoke at a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday on pipeline safety regarding  last year's San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion.

    The hearing, which featured testimony from top officials at the  National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Pipeline and Hazardous  Materials Safety Administration, PG&E, and pipeline safety advocates, was  meant to provide an update and discuss efforts on the national level to  reform the regulation and management of pipeline safety.

     According to the Department of Transportation, over the past  decade, there have been 42 serious gas pipeline incidents on average  annually, resulting in an average of 14 deaths, 16 injuries and more than $32  million in property damage.

    The San Bruno inferno erupted on Sept. 9, 2010 in the Crestmoor  Canyon neighborhood when a 54-year-old PG&E distribution pipeline ruptured.  It leveled the community, killing eight people, injuring 52 others, and  destroying 38 homes.

    "We don't want to see this happen again, this out of control  horror that hit a beautiful, middle-class, strong community in our state,"  Boxer said. "We want to spare that to everyone."

    The NTSB, which launched an investigation of the disaster, found  that a "litany of failures" by PG&E and gas industry regulators created the  conditions that caused the line to rupture.

    According to the investigation, the results of which the federal  board adopted in August, lapses in the utility's safety protocols and state  and federal regulating agency's oversight of those protocols were largely to  blame.

    PG&E installed the faulty 28-foot section of pipeline in 1956, but  its internal records inaccurately stated that the welded section was  seamless, or unwelded.

      The utility had never tested the line to determine the maximum  pressure it could carry, and the section failed when pressure spiked after a  component failure in Milpitas during maintenance activity.

      "This accident and this tragic loss of life were entirely  preventable," Boxer said.

    The Senate Monday passed a bill that would require companies to  keep better records and install automatic or remote-controlled shutoff valves  on new and replaced pipelines.

    It took an hour and 39 minutes before PG&E workers were able to  stop the flow of gas through the ruptured pipeline by manually closing valves  upstream and downstream from the break.

    Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who is chairman of the subcommittee  that held today's hearing, introduced the bill and today stressed its  importance in his state, citing a 1994 pipeline explosion in Edison, N.J.,  that destroyed 14 apartment buildings.

    "These tragedies remind us that we have a responsibility to keep  our pipelines safe and reduce the frequency of accidents," he said.

    That bill is awaiting a vote by the House.

    Feinstein, who said that the bill is a step in the right  direction, also said that there are other problems not addressed by the bill  and encouraged the committee to look further into the safety issues related  to natural gas pipelines.

       "There are a lot of reasons to worry about this, and there are a  lot of reasons to continue to do extraordinary due diligence on this issue,"  Feinstein said.

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