California Gov. Jerry Brown last Friday signed a bill (AB 1694) into law that is aimed at improving safety of the historically lightly regulated natural gas and propane distribution piping systems at mobile home parks in the state.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has jurisdiction over the pervasive systems through its larger gas safety inspection and enforcement powers. AB 1694 was enacted to accelerate the identification and inspection of “high-risk” systems, establishing the creation of a third-party panel of experts to establish the criteria for classifying systems as high-risk.

“It isn’t that [the CPUC] is not going to be getting to the other systems [designated as lower risk], it is just that they get to the higher-risk ones first,” said a spokesperson for the bill’s author, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes. “It doesn’t mean lower-risk natural gas and propane systems won’t be getting inspected; it just means others will be dealt with first.”

AB 1694 allows systems that pass inspection and are deemed safe to not have to face a subsequent inspection for another seven years, compared to two to five years now, depending on the size of the mobile home park. California has more than 5,000 mobile home parks with more than a million people living in them. They range in size from as few as two units to parks with more than 1,000 units.

“As an outgrowth of San Bruno, this is just a law that says the highest-risk systems are going to be inspected first,” Fuentes’ deputy said. The sponsors of the bill didn’t want to be “too prescriptive,” he said. “We wanted to let the experts determine what the best course of action is.”

The legislation follows a stream of pipeline safety bills signed last year (see Daily GPI, Oct. 10, 2011) that were motivated by the San Bruno natural gas pipeline rupture and explosion.

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