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Deadly Gas Pipeline Explosion Prompts Tougher Regulations

Deadly Gas Pipeline Explosion Prompts Tougher Regulations

After last week’s deadly explosion of a natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, Calif., the Obama administration proposed legislation Wednesday that would strengthen federal regulation of pipelines and increase fines for the most serious violations.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of a gas pipeline explosion that killed at least four people and left over fifty injured.

The gas pipeline, owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., ruptured on September 9th and set off a massive explosion that left a giant crater and destroyed dozens of homes overlooking San Francisco Bay.

If passed, the Obama bill would require operators of pipelines involved in accidents that cause deaths, injuries or very serious environmental harm to pay up to $2.5 million in fines, more than double the current $1 million maximum penalty.

The administration’s plan also calls for hiring 40 new safety inspectors that would analyze the pipeline condition, keep accurate maintenance histories, monitor pressure levels and put safeguards in place to prevent pressure from building up.

On Sunday a California state regulator ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to check for leaks in all of its thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines, especially high-pressure pipelines in heavily populated areas like San Bruno.

According to SF Gate, “the move by state regulators came as some San Bruno residents expressed frustration over not knowing why the 30-inch-diameter pipeline, which was installed in 1948, exploded just yards from homes – and whether other similar pipelines might be a hazard. PG&E operates more than 5,700 miles of gas transmission lines.”

Carl Weimer, executive director of the advocacy group Pipeline Safety Trust, told MSNBC the problems are widespread.

“In reality, there is a major pipeline incident every other day in this country. Luckily, most of them don’t happen in populated areas, but you still see too many failures to think something like this wasn’t going to happen sooner or later.”

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Image Credit: Flickr - Rennett Stowe

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62 comments

+ add your own
10:43AM PDT on Sep 20, 2010

It is only a matter of time before it is a major incident in the center of a highly populated area. Nothing will be done before that.

10:15AM PDT on Sep 20, 2010

I'd be so pissed if I bought a house and they didn't tell me there was a pipeline near it!! This country has got to work harder for safer, renewable energy dammit!!!!!!!

2:55AM PDT on Sep 20, 2010

thanks

9:04PM PDT on Sep 19, 2010

This is SO scary! I wish with all my heart that our nation could have had it right from the beginning and started using smaller renewable energy systems earlier on.

4:17PM PDT on Sep 19, 2010

Something like this will happen again & again because the owners of these pipelines aren't willing to spend money having them checked for leaks or high pressure.

9:25AM PDT on Sep 19, 2010

Here's another reason to get rid of our dependence on big oil: go solar, build waste conversion plants such as the Germans are planning on doing. There are all types of alternative energy sources and products available to us to replace those made from oil. It is our whorish politicians who cede their vote to the specialist lobbyists and big businesses, not to mention the international banksters, who prevent us from implementing changes that are environmentally friendly. I don't agree with everything in the environmental movements because many ideas are impractical and lack grounded reasoning. There is a lot I do agree with and alternative, practical methods and products that replace those harmful ones we daily take for granted are more than welcome to my support, and others like me.

8:20AM PDT on Sep 19, 2010

Poor regulation and administration can lead to catastrophies - but I 'm just waiting for O'Bama to blame this latest example of laxity on BP!

4:42AM PDT on Sep 19, 2010

This should be a no brainer...of course people should be made aware of pipelines. There really is no totally environmentally safe way to transport these products. Any major accident causes real damage and lives lost.

9:05PM PDT on Sep 18, 2010

Whatever works.

5:27PM PDT on Sep 18, 2010

President Obama called for a much larger stimulus to address our nation's infrastructure needs. Because we are so afraid of spending domestically, these types of accidents are bound to happen more frequently. A large corporation dependent on shareholders and profits doesn't self-regulate well. We need to quit spending on wars overseas, bring our troops homes to protect our borders, and use the funds to repair existing infrastructure and encourage alternate energy industries to create jobs.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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