Herrera urges CPUC to investigate deadly San Bruno gas line explosion

City Attorney joins TURN in calling for a ‘thorough, transparent investigation’ by the commission that regulates California’s utilities

SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 26, 2011) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today joined a respected consumer advocacy organization in urging state regulators to launch a public investigation into the rupture and explosion of a PG&E gas pipeline that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes in San Bruno, Calif. last September. In separate petitions to the California Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco and The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, called for a formal investigation into the pipeline disaster that will coordinate relevant issues and allow participation by the public and public agencies. The petitions assert that such a comprehensive inquiry is necessary to protect public safety; ensure the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas statewide; and provide a public forum to assess the investigation’s sufficiency and recommended regulatory changes.

“Californians have a vital interest in a thorough, transparent investigation into the San Bruno tragedy by the commission charged with regulating California’s utilities,” said Herrera. “It is certainly important for the federal government to investigate. But that is not sufficient to fully apprise our state regulators and citizens of what must be done to protect public safety in the years to come. The CPUC has an essential role to play in aggressively policing utilities that could pose deadly risks, and to make sure tragedies like the PG&E gas line explosion never happen again.”

A day after the Sept. 9, 2010 explosion and fire, a federal investigation into the deadly San Bruno incident was launched by the National Transportation Safety Board, which has since issued preliminary findings highly critical of PG&E together with numerous urgent safety recommendations. The NTSB is an independent agency under the U.S. Department of Transportation whose mandate includes determining the probable cause of pipeline accidents that involve a fatality or substantial property damage. However, NTSB does not regulate public utilities. In calling for a formal, public investigation by the CPUC, Herrera and TURN cited the commission’s obligation to ensure the immediate safety of California residents, to determine whether other gas lines in the state may be at risk for similar catastrophic failure, and to apply lessons learned from the San Bruno disaster to all California utilities.

The motion was filed in the “Application of PG&E for Authority, Among Other Things, to Increase Rates and Charges for Electric and Gas Service Effective on January 1, 2011,” Application 09-12-020, filed Dec. 21, 2009.

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