After touring the site of the San Bruno, CA, pipeline disaster earlier in May, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reiterated that there will be stronger federal regulations of the nation’s natural gas transmission pipelines, according to a member of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) who accompanied a group of federal officials at the site south of San Francisco.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo County), the local congressional representative for San Bruno, and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration representatives talked to family members of some of the eight people killed in the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) pipeline rupture last September. They also toured the site of the explosion and fire that devastated San Bruno’s Glenview neighborhood.

CPUC Commissioner Michel Florio accompanied the group and said LaHood appeared to be emotionally struck by the experience.

“It was a very moving experience for everyone,” Florio said during the CPUC regular business meeting Thursday. “But it particularly seemed to inspire Secretary LaHood to become more vehement as he moved through the tour.”

LaHood made it clear that “action will be taken on the federal level” to address greater pipeline safety, Florio said. “Whether through legislation or through rulemaking, I think that, frankly, our [CPUC] staff work is actually ahead of the feds on these issues at this point.”

Florio said the CPUC in June will take up further action to address pipeline safety. Speier has been critical of PG&E’s response to the tragedy and has proposed legislation to address some of the shortcomings she sees.

Under a proposed decision pending at the CPUC, all California operators of intrastate natural gas transmission pipelines — four major private-sector utilities — must prepare implementation plans to pressure test or replace all gas pipeline segments that have not been tested or lack sufficient records verifying such tests. Plans would be required to be submitted 60 days after the order is approved (see Daily GPI, May 16).

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