The explosion of a natural gas pipeline in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno has caused the federal government to crack down on the America’s energy companies. The explosion occurred in September of 2010, killing eight people and injuring many more, while doing severe damage to 38 homes. The National Transportation Safety Board placed blame for the accident on numerous failures by the Pacific Gas & Electric Co., referencing specifically the shoddy and incomplete records kept by the company in regards to the decades old San Bruno pipeline.
As a result of the explosion, the federal government has created new guidelines for energy companies in regards to pipe safety. These guidelines have raised the pressure on energy companies to make sure that they are operating oil and gas lines safely. If pipeline operators can’t verify that their lines are being adequately overseen by next year, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has stated that they could face penalties, or worse. Under the new guidelines, federal and state officials will be responsible for making sure safety standards are enforced, while all energy companies will have to keep complete records about their pipelines, which often run through significantly populated areas.
Following the San Bruno explosion, California regulators ordered state utilities, including PG&E to decrease the pressure on their pipelines. They also required that those same utilities produce any records of pressure tests done to ascertain the safety of those pipelines. PG&E’s records in particular demonstrated that the San Bruno line was “seamless,” but the company later qualified this statement by stating that its record system suffered when it was updated from paper to digital format. PG&E spokesman David Eisenhauer stated that a thorough records review was underway at PG&E, and that company pipelines were running at the right pressures. For its review process, PG&E rented a concert venue, with the sole purpose of having its employees examine more than 1.25 million gas transmission records collected from its various offices and storage facilities. The California Public Utilities Commission is still considering whether or not the record keeping lapses performed by PG&E violated state and federal laws, and ultimately resulted in the pipeline rupture.
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