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California's pipeline safety scrutinized

June 10, 2011 at 6:06 AM

SAN FRANCISCO, June 10 (UPI) -- California needs a sea change in the way it deals with pipeline safety after an independent panel said there was a lack of oversight, a utility executive said.

An independent panel investigating the San Bruno, Calif., natural gas disaster found Pacific Gas and Electric company didn't have a strategy in place to ensure the integrity of its pipeline system, the Platts news service reports.

A September gas explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno after a weld seam broke on a pipeline operated by PG&E.

Federal regulators suggested the weld on the inside of the pipeline was botched when it was installed in the 1950s.

The report finds PG&E management didn't have the proper training and there was too much emphasis on fiscal policies.

The California Public Utilities Commission ordered the independent investigation. PUC President Michael Peevey said the report was disturbing.

The investigation found that PUC lacks staff that can deal with pipeline safety.

Peevey described the report's findings a "damning" criticism of pipeline safety across the board. He said there was a "culture of complacency" regarding pipeline safety that would require a "cultural challenge" to fix.

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