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This past weekend, state authorities have ordered Pacific Gas & Electric to make a complete safety review of all natural gas lines in its system. This order comes on the heels of the major explosion in San Bruno, California on September 9, which killed at least four people and destroyed as many as 37 homes.
The first lines to be inspected by PG&E should be high pressure gas lines, like the one blamed for the San Bruno fire, according to the Los Angeles Times. PG&E is also under orders to gather and preserve records relating to work done on the line that is believed to have ruptured and caused the explosion and fire, especially any work in September 2010, concerning the Milpitas terminal. This request, sent to the California Public Utilities Commission, (CPUC) has come directly from California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who is overseeing the disaster response while Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is on a trade mission in Asia.
As with the explosion linked to a gas line in Rancho Cordova, Ca, in 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board will make an investigation and review. According to the Times, a focus of the NTSB review will be on the company's response to gas leaks and on company budgets, to identify how much of the money authorized for leak detection is actually spent on that action.
The NTSB is often linked in with investigations of aviation accidents, however the Board has the responsibly to oversee all forms of transportation accidents including those with pipelines causing fatalities or property damage. Accidents with pipelines that transport gas, volatile liquid, or other types of petroleum products are the responsibility of the NTSB.
PG&E rebased a statement this past weekend promising to "comply fully with any actions directed by the CPUC." The utility company says it inspected the San Bruno pipeline in March and found no problems.
The federal investigators will produce a preliminary report within the next 30 days and provide recommendations as soon as possible, if a safety issue is found. The Times reports that NTSB Vice Chairman Christopher Hart urged witnesses to contact local authorities or email investigators at firstname.lastname@example.org. He said the agency is particularly interested in videos of the San Bruno fire.
A final report from the NTSB could take about one year or more to complete.