01/21/11

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) issued the following statement on the 77-page metallurgical fact report on the San Bruno pipeline released today by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Today’s NTSB findings indicate there were faulty welds on the ruptured pipeline installed in 1956. I am profoundly disturbed by what I read today. Over the past several months experts have told me that welding flaws are detectable. We know that PG&E believed this pipe was seamless and that in 54 years it never once inspected the condition of the welds. The loss of life might have been prevented if PG&E had properly identified the risks it had underground in the Glenview neighborhood. The utility will have to answer for eight deaths, the suffering of burn victims and 38 destroyed homes.”

She noted that on page 10 of the report there is attention paid to a longitudinal seam crack at a pup weld that is “consistent with ductile overstress from the root of the weld.” Furthermore, the report states that “All girth welds exhibited incomplete fusion, slag inclusion and porosity defects on at least one radiograph.”

Speier said the report revealed that the welding on the ruptured pipeline was not in accordance with welding standards established by PG&E in 1948and 1949 or industry standards as of 1954.

“The report does not address the full cause of the rupture. It has, in essence, identified a weak link—there may be others and I am confident that they will be discussed fully and publicly at the board’s San Bruno pipeline hearings planned for March 1-3, 2011 in Washington, D.C.

“Over the next weeks I will be meeting with the NTSB, PG&E and the CPUC and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for these purposes:

1.      To accelerate the identification of pipelines in the Bay Area that may have welds similar to the ones on Line 132;

2.      To accelerate PG&E’s identification of pipelines that lack pressure testing documentation;

3.      To work with federal regulators in crafting new rules that will improve the inspection of welds by operators.

“I am pleased by the NTSB’s exhaustive investigative approach. But the investigation does not preclude regulators and PG&E from taking action now to provide for the highest level of safety possible.”

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