SanBrunoaftermath.jpgThe California Public Utilities Commission approved a resolution today appointing five members of an independent review panel who will investigate a gas line rupture that tore through a San Bruno neighborhood in September.

The panelists will make recommendations for improvement of gas transmission lines owned by PG&E.

A PG&E natural gas line ruptured on Sept. 9 in the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood, destroying 35 homes and killing eight people. Activists and concerned residents demanded an investigation of the transmission line, known as pipeline 132.

In September, PG&E reduced the pressure of line 132 to 20 percent below its operation levels at the time of the explosion on orders from a CPUC resolution.

Today’s resolution said the appointed panelists will speed up an investigation so that the gas line pressure can be restored–and so San Bruno residents will have heat for the approaching winter months.

“With winter approaching, it will be necessary for the commission to immediately hire expert consultants to investigate the safety of increasing the pressure of pipeline 132,” the resolution said.

While many officials support the policy, some expressed concerns about the commission’s speed at conducting pipeline investigations.

“There are events beyond our immediate knowledge and control, when we do not have time to wait for a commission’s meeting,” said Michael Peevey, president of CPUC.

Several others expressed the need for the investigation given the size and impact of the explosion.

“What happened in San Bruno was a terrible tragedy that must be prevented from ever happening again,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement today.

“The people deserve answers to the many questions that are still unanswered, and this panel of experts will be instrumental in finding those answers.”

Today’s resolution, L-405, also ordered PG&E to pay for the five panelists to conduct their investigation, but it did not specify how much they would be paid. It said the allocation of costs would be determined at a later proceeding.

“This is a good start,” Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said. “My hope is that the panel will shed light on what caused this horrific disaster so that we can make the necessary regulatory and legislative changes to ensure that something like this never happens again.”

The panelists are retired University of California chancellors Larry Vanderhoef and Karl Pister; electrical workers union member Patrick Lavin; business consultant Paula Rosput Reynolds; and lawyer Jan Shori.

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

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