pipelines.jpgU.S. Rep. Jackie Speier Tuesday will propose legislation intended to change natural gas pipeline safety standards and increase public knowledge of locations of gas transmission lines, Speier announced today.

She unveiled the legislation at the intersection of Earl Avenue and Glenview Drive in the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood, where on Sept. 9 a gas pipeline explosion and fire killed seven people and destroyed 37 homes.

PG&E, which maintains the 30-inch steel gas transmission line that exploded, operates 6,700 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines throughout central and northern California.

“We have aging natural gas transmission pipelines running through our communities,” Speier said. “Are the lines too old? Are they safe? People want to know if they’re living anywhere near one of these transmission lines, and I believe they have a right to know.”

The Pipeline Safety and Community Empowerment Act would set standards for automatic shut-off valves, regular internal inspections of pipelines, and the disclosure of pipeline locations to the public, Speier said.

The legislation would require the installation of automatic or remote shut-off valves on all pipelines that are new or replaced.

The shut-off valves would have to be installed within two years on pipelines located within 10 miles of a high-risk seismic fault, and within five years on transmission lines in high-density residential and business areas, Speier said.

The transmission line that exploded in San Bruno did not have an automatic shut-off valve. It took PG&E 1 hour and 46 minutes after the initial explosion to turn off the gas supply to the pipe, Speier said.

The bill would require pipeline operators to internally inspect gas lines every five years, preferably with a Pipeline Inspection Gauge, or PIG, or be prohibited from operating the transmission line at high pressure.

The legislation would mandate the secretary of state within one year to set standards requiring pipeline operators to notify all property owners and residents who are within 2,000 feet of a transmission line.

It would also require homeowners to be made aware of the locations of pipelines on private property. Residents would be provided access to maps through the National Pipeline Mapping System.

The notices would have to be provided within two years of enactment and at least every three years thereafter, Speier said.

Pipeline industry standards and procedures would have to be made easily available free of charge to the public.

Pipeline owners and operators would also need to provide emergency contact information, pipeline locator maps, and an emergency response plan to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration, state regulators and state and local emergency responders.

“I’m confident that other natural gas companies will recognize this bill mandates both a reaction to what happened here in San Bruno and a fair plan for providing energy to this nation that is both safe and reliable,” Speier said.

Andy Hamilton, Bay City News

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