Util­ity head grilled over fa­tal Calif ex­plo­sion

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

SAN BRUNO, CALIF: State law­mak­ers meet­ing in the San Fran­cisco sub­urb where eight peo­ple were killed in a nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sion grilled the head of the Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion Tues­day evening over what they char­ac­ter­ized as years of lax over­sight of the rup­tured pipe­line's op­er­a­tor, Pa­cific Gas & Elec­tric.

Assem­bly­man Jerry Hill, who rep­re­sents the city of San Bruno, or­ga­nized the town hall meet­ing so his col­leagues and res­i­dents of the com­mu­nity where 38 homes were de­stroyed and 55 fam­i­lies re­main dis­placed could get an update on what PG&E and state reg­u­la­tors were do­ing to pre­vent a re­peat of the Sept. 9 dis­as­ter.

"It is not busi­ness as usual you are get­ting," CPUC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Paul Clanon said at the start of the gath­er­ing, not­ing that two of the peo­ple killed in the blast were a com­mis­sion em­ployee and her 13year-old daugh­ter. "We are do­ing a pro­fes­sional job, but it's per­sonal."

Clanon tried to defuse one of the fiercest crit­i­cisms since the ex­plo­sion sent a 2,000de­gree fire­ball through a neigh­bor­hood un­aware that the high-pres­sure gasline ran un­der its streets - that PG&E called the pipe "high-risk" in 2007, re­ceived per­mis­sion from the com­mis­sion to bill ratepay­ers to up­grade it and then dropped the im­prove­ments the next year.

"What it may rep­re­sent, and that's a ques­tion for PG&E, is they went out and got more in­for­ma­tion about that pipe­line and de­cided that based on their own view of pipe­line safety it was bet­ter to go back and work on an­other stretch of pipe­line and then to go back to this one," he ex­plained.

Res­i­dents in the au­di­ence of about 100 peo­ple in­ter­rupted to ask what had hap­pened to the $5 mil­lion the util­ity had sup­pos­edly set aside to work on their pipe­line. Clanon said he as­sumed it had gone "to other pipe­line main­te­nance" but con­ceded he did not know for sure. -Ap

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