July 18, 2013

SAN MATEO, CA - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today released a June 25th letter that she sent to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and the July 15th response to that letter. In her letter, Speier asked that PHMSA review the capacity of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to carry out its pipeline safety responsibilities under federal law. She also released this statement: 
“Administrator Quarterman pledged to review recent events at the CPUC and the overall capacity of the CPUC to fulfill its duties under federal law. I encourage CPUC employees in the pipeline safety division to be forthcoming with their federal counterparts. PHMSA’s role is to evaluate the technical and organizational strengths of the CPUC and to determine if pipeline safety is adequately assured by CPUC operations. Continued federal funding of the safety program is dependent upon that determination.
"One hard lesson learned from the San Bruno explosion is that CPUC must go beyond desk audits of self-reported information from PG&E and other operators. Field inspections and improved technological analyses are critical aspects of CPUC's oversight and, in turn, PHMSA's oversight of the CPUC.
"Also, regulators must use an enforcement 'hammer' judiciously when violations merit a tough, corrective response. The CPUC's approach to penalizing PG&E for its errors has been cumbersome to say the least. PHMSA must review the penalty process to insure that enforcement violations are not merely written off by any pipeline operator as a cost of doing business.
"I want the experts in the federal government to thoroughly evaluate the CPUC, and I hope that employees of the CPUC will be candid in their comments. The residents of California deserve the best oversight in the nation.”
Congresswoman Speier’s letter to PHMSA and the response may be found here