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CPUC Puts Support Behind 3 New Pipeline Safety Bills

The bills are meant to strengthen the California Public Utilities Commission's safety and enforcement efforts following the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

The California Public Utilities Commission said today it is supporting three bills that would improve the state’s natural gas pipeline system.

The legislation has been proposed in response to the recommendations made by the CPUC’s independent review panel, which concluded that the 2010 pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood was a direct result of multiple shortcomings in PG&E's oversight of the safety of its gas transmission system.

The three bills the CPUC is sponsoring are:

  • Assembly Bill 1514, which would authorize the CPUC to issue penalties when a utility or an excavator fails to call 811 before starting a digging project near a pipeline;
  • Assembly Bill 1694, which would allow the CPUC to change the way it inspects natural gas and propane systems at mobile-home parks; and
  • A bill that would allow the state’s utilities to expedite permits with counties and cities when doing pipeline work.

“These bills help to strengthen the CPUC’s safety and enforcement efforts and are part of the CPUC’s promise to make good on each and every item brought up in the National Transportation Safety Board and Independent Review Panel reports,” CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio said in a statement.

In addition to the CPUC’s investigation into the San Bruno explosion, the National Transportation Safety Board conducted a yearlong investigation, determining that the accident was caused by a defective weld in the pipeline.

In other action today, the CPUC’s five board members voted not to support state Sen. Leland Yee’s bill that looks to put a stop to the close relationship between many CPUC executives and the top brass at many of the state’s utility companies.

Yee said his bill, SB 981, is needed to stop the revolving door of employees between the CPUC and the utilities.

“Today’s vote by the CPUC is yet another reminder of why we need to stop the fox from guarding the hen house,” Yee said in a statement. “Enough is enough of this cozy relationship between the utilities and the state entity charged with protecting consumers.”

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