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Yee's Pipeline Safety Bill Set to Become Law

The bill was proposed after the Sept. 9, 2010, fire in the Crestmoor neighborhood to force utility companies to make it easier to shut off pipelines in the event of a disaster—a problem that exacerbated the San Bruno explosion.

State Sen. Leland Yee's pipeline safety bill that requires PG&E and other gas utility companies throughout the state to equip their lines with automatic or remote-controlled shutoff vales is set to go into effect on Sunday, Jan. 1.

Yee, D-San Francisco, proposed the bill shortly after the Sept. 9, 2010, pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood, particularly after it was discovered that the pipeline, which was owned by PG&E, had manual valves. As a result, it took crews nearly 90 minutes to shut off the pipe.

The fire left eight people dead, dozens injured, 38 homes destroyed and many more homes damaged.

Yee’s SB 216 will now require all privately owned gas companies in the state to equip all pipelines that cross an active seismic earthquake fault or are located within a highly populated area with automatic or remote-controlled safety valves.

In addition to Yee's legislation, other bills have been proposed this year to ensure pipelines are safer in California and throughout the rest of the country. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, proposed AB 56, which also would require PG&E and other utilities to install remote or automatic shutoff valves.

Hill's legislation would also:

  • prohibit gas companies from recovering any fines or penalties from ratepayers;
  • require the California Public Utilities Commission to track how utilities spend money allocated for safety projects;
  • require gas companies to meet annually with local fire departments to review emergency response plans.

That bill is still currently making its way through the state Legislature.

Another federal bill was passed by the House and Senate earlier this month that would double the maximum fine pipeline operators face for safety violations and allow the secretary of transportation to require that automatic shutoff valves get installed on new or replaced pipelines, according to media reports.

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