By Kitty Felde
It’s been 10 months since a natural gas pipeline ruptured underneath a San Bruno neighborhood. The explosion killed eight people and destroyed more than three dozen homes. In light of that and other recent pipeline disasters, a U.S. House subcommittee today examined tighter regulations on the pipeline industry.
Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier says she knew very little about underground pipelines until September of last year. That’s when a ruptured natural gas transmission line owned by Pacific Gas & Electric turned a neighborhood in her district into a fireball. "I now feel like I have a PhD in it."
Testifying before the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, Speier says the pipe that ruptured dates back to the 1950s. "If you look at pipeline safety historically and the laws that we’ve put on the books, we grandfathered all of the pipes that were pre-1970 pipes, so all of the older pipes are not subject to the kind of scrutiny that newer pipes are."
Speier says she’s “thrilled” that a bill to tighten regulation of the pipeline industry is moving swiftly through the House. But she wants two more mandates: automatic shutoff valves for pipelines in densely populated or seismically risky areas, and adequate notification to homeowners who live near those pipes.
"If the homeowner doesn’t know that they’ve got a transmission line in their backyard or front yard and they’re putting up an in-law unit, they’re not going to take the kind of precautions necessary," says Speier.
The National Transportation Safety Board plans to release its report on the San Bruno pipeline explosion at the end of next month.
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