With last fall's San Bruno, CA, pipeline rupture still fresh in everyone's mind, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) said Thursday it has rededicated itself to pipeline safety and formed a new executive-level task force.

Christopher A. Helms Group CEO of NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage, has been appointed the chairman of the task force.

"INGAA had taken a leadership position in the establishment of the Integrity Management Program from 1999-2002, and we felt it was an appropriate time to renew our commitment to this issue," Helms said. "For the past several years, the focus of the nation's interstate natural gas pipelines has been on a safety culture for both our companies and our suppliers, and we believe we can provide leadership and work with regulators and other stakeholders toward the common goal of safe transportation of natural gas. We feel it is of utmost importance that best practices and lessons learned be shared and that safety standards be applied throughout the industry."

The task force, which will consist of INGAA board members, will oversee the development of the next level of pipeline safety standards "because natural gas is -- and will continue to be -- a critical fuel for America's energy future," the association said.

It has been nearly five months since a portion of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s (PG&E) Line 132 in San Bruno suffered a rupture, killing eight people and destroying 37 homes. Since the blast, the public and state and national officials have been in search of answers.

Consumer advocates on Wednesday asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to launch a new statewide investigation of the explosion (see Daily GPI, Jan. 27). As regulator concerns increase about data gaps related to the pressure testing of sections of high-pressure natural gas transmission pipelines, PG&E earlier this month assumed a data-gathering approach, while refusing to speculate on how much of the 1,800 miles of transmission pipeline it has traversing high-consequence areas may need testing (see Daily GPI, Jan. 19).

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