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Safety Concerns Over Gas Line Prompts Emergency Declaration In San Carlos

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PG&E truck in San Carlos.

PG&E truck in San Carlos.

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SAN CARLOS (CBS SF) — SAN CARLOS (CBS SF) — San Carlos city officials Saturday activated an emergency operations center in a limited capacity following a meeting of city officials and PG&E representatives regarding the safety of a disputed gas pipeline.

City officials and emergency responders met at noon Saturday via conference call with representatives from PG&E Gas Operations and state and county emergency services officials to discuss the status of Line 147, according to city officials.

Utility representatives told San Carlos officials they continue to operate the gas line despite a court order to shut it down that was issued by a San Mateo County judge on Friday. However, the utility is analyzing the impacts of shutting the line down and expects to complete that analysis by Monday morning, city officials said.

Mayor Bob Grassilli said the timeline was not satisfactory.

“How can a company which claims safety is their top priority continue to ignore a court order issued to protect the public?” Grassilli said in a statement Saturday.

“It’s 80 degrees outside, PG&E customers in the Bay Area aren’t going to be without gas if line 147 were shut down,” Grassilli added.

The injunction was issued Friday after city officials obtained emails from the utility questioning the line’s safety.

The San Carlos City Council declared a state of emergency late Friday afternoon and held an emergency meeting to discuss PG&E’s refusal to shut down the pipeline, according to a statement from the city manager’s office.

The 3.8-mile line runs the length of the city beneath Brittan Avenue, a residential street that carries thousands of residents to their homes and schools daily, according to city officials, City Manager Jeff Maltbie said.

PG&E officials say the pipe, which is still operating, is safe, although the utility told city officials it would reduce pressure on the pipe by 20 percent, according to Maltbie.

A utility spokesperson was not immediately available for comment this afternoon, and calls to PG&E’s media line were referred to the city of San Carlos.

Concerns over the pipe’s safety came after PG&E representatives forwarded city officials a series of internal emails on Thursday that cast doubt on the condition of the line after a leak repair.

In one of the emails, a PG&E engineer, whose name was redacted, expressed concerns to PG&E executives about the thinning of the pipe, which dates back to 1929.

“Are we sitting on a San Bruno situation?” the engineer wrote. “Is the pipe cracked and near failure? I don’t want to panic people but seems like we should consider this and probably move this pipe…for replacement.”

City Manager Jeff Maltbie said residents living near the pipeline are not being asked to evacuate and said shutting down the line would simply be “err(ing) on the side of caution.”

Nonetheless, he said, “The city is doing everything we can to ensure their safety.”

On Monday, city officials plan to confer with the CPUC over the issue, Maltbie said.

The state commission is weighing whether to fine PG&E up to $2 billion for the 2010 explosion of one of its pipelines in San Bruno, which killed 8 people, injured more than 60 others and decimated 38 homes.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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