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July 5, 2011 > Bill to improve gas pipeline safety advances in Assembly

Bill to improve gas pipeline safety advances in Assembly

Submitted By Andrew LaMar

Legislation by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) to improve emergency response to gas pipeline problems and help avoid disasters similar to the devastating gas explosion in San Bruno in September 2010 cleared the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee on June 27, 2011.

Senate Bill 44 directs the California Public Utilities Commission, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Services, the State Fire Marshal and the California Fire Chiefs Association, to adopt stricter emergency response standards for natural gas operators. By improving communication and coordination, the bill helps minimize loss of life and damage to property caused by gas pipeline emergencies.

"We've learned a lot since the San Bruno disaster about how to better manage gas pipelines and respond to trouble," Corbett said. "We know it's critical for California's first responders to have all the tools and coordination they need to respond quickly, if and when something goes wrong with a gas pipeline. SB 44 raises first-response standards for natural gas operators so first responders can be as effective as possible."

Many of the East Bay's gas pipelines run along the Hayward fault and are vulnerable to rupture in an earthquake.

Among other things, SB 44 mandates that natural gas operators utilize emergency shutdown and pressure reduction whenever necessary; maintain contact with fire, police and other relevant officials; provide maps to fire officials of where pipelines are located.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, moves next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Sen. Corbett is chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Earthquake and Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery.

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