The state has ordered PG&E to inspect its entire natural-gas transmission network in California following a deadly explosion in San Bruno last week.
“We will direct PG&E to immediately begin an inspection of its natural-gas transmission system, as well as to take other immediate actions to ensure safety,” California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey said in a statement Sunday.
Safety upgrades were planned to begin on natural-gas pipelines next year that could prevent the type of explosion that devastated San Bruno.
As part of the U.S. Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, energy companies would focus more on pipeline inspection and repair work in urbanized areas. The company’s natural-gas rates were slated to skyrocket 29 percent to help fund the safety-related measures.
Under the 2002 law, PG&E must inspect many of the pipelines it operates near housing, parks, nursing homes and other vulnerable areas by the end of 2012 and repair any danger spots.
The company’s gas division recently projected that its costs would rise from $99 million in 2008 to $137 million in 2011, partly due to the looming deadline.
“In 2011, PG&E will be increasing expenditures on initial inspections in order to meet the 2012 deadline,” PG&E program manager Frank Maxwell told state regulators in prepared testimony explaining proposed rate hikes.
The dangers of natural-gas pipelines have been understood locally since 1906, when they ruptured during the earthquake and fueled fires that burned down San Francisco buildings.
Since then, PG&E has worked to replace rigid fixtures in pipes that connect to individual properties with flexible devices.
But the pipeline that exploded in San Bruno was a wide transmission pipeline used to move gas around the PG&E network.
Risks from such explosions have grown as new neighborhoods have sprung up in formerly rural areas near aging transmission pipelines, such as the 30-inch-wide pipe that exploded last week.
Part of the 62-year-old pipeline was identified by PG&E as dangerous and was due to be replaced in 2013 at a cost of $5 million.
On Sunday, federal investigators said the cause of the blast is unknown, but they removed sections of pipeline for analysis.
They also found no evidence that residents reported smelling gas prior to the explosion.
30 inches Diameter of natural-gas pipeline that exploded
60-plus People treated at area hospitals
40-plus People received assistance at Red Cross
Nearly 50 Homes destroyed
15 Acres affected by fire
377 Homes evacuated
294 Homes able to be occupied as of Sunday
83 Homes not able to be occupied as of Sunday
Source: City of San Bruno, San Francisco Examiner report
Veterans Memorial Recreation Center
251 City Park Way at Crystal Springs Road
On-site: Insurance companies, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA, the Mexican Consulate, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, AT&T, PG&E, San Mateo County
Information: Call (650) 616-7180 or visit www.sanbruno.ca.gov
American Red Cross
Checks can be made out to the American Red Cross and designated for the Glenview neighborhood fire