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September 6, 2011 > Gas pipeline safety bill awaits Governor's signature

Gas pipeline safety bill awaits Governor's signature

Submitted By Andrew LaMar

Legislation by Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett (D-San Leandro) to improve emergency response to gas pipeline problems and help avoid disasters similar to last September's deadly gas explosion in San Bruno passed the Assembly on August 31, 2011. The following day, the Senate voted 39-0 to send SB 44 to the Governor's desk.

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.

"As the one-year anniversary of this terrible tragedy approaches, we've learned much went wrong with the San Bruno explosion," Corbett said. "This bill remedies one of the problems: a poor and uncoordinated response to the disaster. SB 44 raises first-response standards for natural gas operators so first responders can be as effective as possible."

The legislation enacts one of the recent recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board, which called for an overhaul of state and federal pipeline regulatory efforts after its investigation into the San Bruno explosion identified a long list of missteps and shortcomings.

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; and provide fire officials with maps of pipeline locations.

Many of the East Bay's gas pipelines run along the Hayward fault and are vulnerable to rupture in an earthquake. Corbett is chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Earthquake and Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery.

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