WASHINGTON (CBS SF) – California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein called on Congress to pass even stricter measures to prevent pipeline disasters like the one in San Bruno, saying the bill that cleared the Senate on Tuesday was only a start.

The bill authorizes more federal safety inspectors and greater penalties for violations. It also requires pipeline companies to verify the records they maintain on the physical and operational characteristics of their pipelines, and use that information to establish maximum operating pressures for their pipes.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

After freshman Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) dropped his philosophical opposition to new regulation of oil and gas pipelines, the Senate approved the bill unanimously.

It must still be approved by the House of Representatives.

“Even after this legislation is signed into law, there’s more work to be done,” said Boxer.

At a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, the two California senators grilled federal regulators about the speed of pipeline reforms.

Boxer pointed to photos of the smoldering remnants of San Bruno’s Crestmoor neighborhood after last year’s deadly explosion as she chastised the head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Two senators called for more urgency in implementing all of the recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board after the Sept. 9, 2010 disaster that killed eight people and destroyed 37 homes.

“This could happen in Anywhere, USA,” Boxer said, calling the lack of automatic shutoff valves at Pacific Gas and Electric a dereliction of duty.

At the hearing, PG&E announced the hiring of former NTSB chairman Jim Hall as a pipeline safety consultant.

The utility said Hall and his Washington, D.C.-based firm will evaluate PG&E after it received a scathing report from the NTSB in September about the cause of the San Bruno blast.

The NTSB concluded after a yearlong probe that the explosion was caused by a “litany of failures” by PG&E, as well as weak oversight by regulators.

Hall, who led the NTSB for seven years, said his that firm will share its findings with PG&E officials and the California Public Utilities Commission.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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