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Lawmaker, San Bruno Blast Survivors Tout New Pipeline Regulations

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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 BRUNO (CBS SF) – Assemblyman Jerry Hill was in San Bruno Tuesday morning to promote state legislation that would impose stricter regulations on natural gas providers.

Hill, whose district includes San Bruno, held a news conference in the city’s Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood to outline the details of Assembly Bill 56, which would require utilities to install automatic shutoff valves on pipelines in highly populated areas.

The Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood was the site of the PG&E gas pipeline explosion on Sept. 9, 2010, that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. It took PG&E 95 minutes to shut off the flow of gas that day.

A yearlong investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that PG&E was largely responsible for the disaster, citing the utility’s failure to detect flaws in the section of pipe that was installed in the residential neighborhood in 1956 and was never subsequently tested.

The new law would require that gas companies submit plans for comprehensive testing of their transmission systems to state regulators.

PG&E owns and operates about 5,700 miles of natural gas transmission lines in its service area, Hill said, an estimated 1,800 miles of which are found in densely populated areas.

Only 56 percent of those pipelines have been properly tested, Hill said, calling PG&E’s infrastructure a “ticking time bomb.”

Hill said he hoped the proposed law would be voted on in the state Assembly by Friday, the first anniversary of the explosion.

The lawmaker was surrounded by San Bruno city officials and Crestmoor Canyon residents whose lives were forever altered when PG&E’s pipeline exploded nearly one year ago.

Rene Morales, whose 20-year-old daughter Jessica Morales died in the explosion, said more rigorous pipeline legislation is needed to ensure that a similar disaster never occurs again.

“My life is forever changed because my daughter is no longer here with me,” Morales said, fighting back tears.

“It’s very important to pass along the very important message that pipe safety needs to be governed by someone other than PG&E,” she said.

Mayor Jim Ruane challenged every state lawmaker who might be planning to vote against AB 56 to visit San Bruno and witness firsthand the devastation that the explosion and subsequent fire caused to the community.

“This has to be unanimous,” Ruane said. “This is not just a San Bruno issue, this is a national issue.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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