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Peninsula Lawmaker Proposes Pipeline Safety Bill

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San Bruno Explosion

Flames are seen in San Bruno’s Crestmoor neighborhood following a gas pipeline explosion, September 9, 2010 in San Bruno. (Getty Images)

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SAN MATEO (AP/KCBS) – A bill introduced Monday by San Mateo Assemblyman Jerry Hill would require utilities to share their emergency plans with police and fire departments.  Utilities would also have to prioritize repairs to pipelines close to earthquake fault lines and install valves that could automatically seal off a ruptured line.

The legislation was aimed at preventing pipeline explosions like the natural gas blast that killed eight people in San Bruno. That Sept. 9 explosion also leveled 35 homes.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

In the months following the tragedy, Assemblyman Jerry Hill watched as the subsequent investigation uncovered what he thought were loopholes and a “laissez-faire” attitude from those charged with overseeing PG&E.

He pointed out that the utility twice billed ratepayers for work on a stretch of pipeline in South San Francisco that still hasn’t been done.

The utility’s response was that its priorities had changed.

“No one is watching them, no one’s monitoring them, no one is overseeing how they’re spending ratepayer money. Or what the prioritization is in that process,” Hill alleged.

Hill’s bill would also re-prioritize pipelines in quake-prone areas. According to Hill, hospitals in his district were left vulnerable to PG&E’s whims.

“35 of them in San Mateo and San Francisco counties are designated as non-core customers. Non-core means that if there’s a curtailment of gas service to anyone, they’re the first ones to get curtailed. That, to me, is ridiculous. You don’t curtail hospitals, especially in the area that we’re talking about in the seismic area and the potential for a disaster.”

Federal legislation also has been introduced to require the valves and increase inspections.

Officials were scheduled to hold a public forum on pipeline safety Tuesday evening in San Bruno.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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