California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed five natural gas pipeline safety measures into law that state lawmakers developed as a response to the San Bruno gas transmission pipeline rupture and explosion last year.

The measures address some of the criticisms from federal regulators (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31) of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) and the state’s pipeline regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), seeking to beef up maintenance and oversight of gas transmission pipelines and improve coordination between pipeline operators and local first responders.

“This legislation was developed in response to the explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people, injured numerous others and destroyed dozens of homes,” Brown said. “We learned very important lessons from the tragic explosion in San Bruno.”

California lawmakers passed a series of natural gas pipeline safety measures before adjourning in early September, while measures on hydraulic fracturing and renewable energy were left behind (see Daily GPI, Sept. 13). Among those measures signed by Brown are two PG&E-backed pipeline safety measures (SB 44 and SB 216) that strengthen the CPUC oversight of intrastate gas pipelines in accordance with stepped-up federal regulations.

Two other bills (AB 56 and SB 705) signed into law deal with pipeline integrity, maintenance and record-keeping of operations at different levels of detail, along with the use of automatic and remote-controlled valves. All of these are issues and areas of concern on which the CPUC has mandated stepped-up work by PG&E and the state’s other intrastate pipeline operators, principally Sempra Energy’s two utilities, Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co.

A fifth measure signed into law (SB 879) raises the maximum penalty from $20,000 to $50,000 for violating requirements for the utilities’ pipeline maintenance and safety programs.

Under SB 44 the CPUC is mandated to hold a statewide proceeding to establish upgraded emergency response standards for pipeline operators. AB 216 will require pipeline operators to install automatic shutoff or remote-control sectionalized block valves in high-consequence areas and areas of active earthquake faults.

“Pipeline operators and the CPUC must take every possible step to keep [another San Bruno] from happening again,” Brown said during a signing ceremony. “These bills protect California’s communities by setting new standards for emergency preparedness, placing automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas and ensuring that gas companies pressure test transmission pipelines.”

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