San Bruno Gas Explosion One Year Anniversary, Lax Oversight is Blamed

Fri, 2011-09-09 09:50Ben Jervey
Ben Jervey's picture

San Bruno Gas Explosion One Year Anniversary, Lax Oversight is Blamed

San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion at night

One year ago today, at about 6:11 pm, a massive natural gas line explosion ripped apart a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California. The blast was described as “a thunderous roar heard for miles,” and the geyser of fire that spewed forth killed eight people, injured dozens, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged another 70.

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which regulates energy and resource pipelines, revealed the findings of their year-long investigation into the causes of that fatal, catastrophic blast.

“Our investigation revealed that for years, PG&E exploited weaknesses in a lax system of oversight,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “We also identified regulators that placed a blind trust in the companies that they were charged with overseeing to the detriment of public safety.”

San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion-a remnant of the line
Close Up Pictures of Gas Line Explosion Damage (CC) by smi23le on Flickr.

San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion at night
San Bruno fire at night (CC) by MisterOh on Wikimedia Commons.

The report, which also offers 29 new recommendations to the Department of Transportation, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and local regulators, includes this eye-opening section on probable cause. (Emphasis mine.)

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the Pacific Gas and Electric Company's (PG&E) (1) inadequate quality assurance and quality control in 1956 during its Line 132 relocation project, which allowed the installation of a substandard and poorly welded pipe section with a visible seam weld flaw that, over time grew to a critical size, causing the pipeline to rupture during a pressure increase stemming from poorly planned electrical work at the Milpitas Terminal; and (2) inadequate pipeline integrity management program, which failed to detect and repair or remove the defective pipe section.

Contributing to the accident were the California Public Utility Commission's (CPUC) and the U.S. Department of Transportation's exemptions of existing pipelines from the regulatory requirement for pressure testing, which likely would have detected the installation defects. Also contributing to the accident was the CPUC's failure to detect the inadequacies of PG&E's pipeline integrity management program.

Contributing to the severity of the accident were the lack of either automatic shutoff valves or remote control valves on the line and PG&E's flawed emergency response procedures and delay in isolating the rupture to stop the flow of gas.

It’s worth noting that these regulatory exemptions and examples of lax oversight are precisely the types of government regulation that many Congressional Republicans are now calling an “unnecessary burden on business.” They call them “job killers,” but many would call them “life savers.”

Finally from the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Department: The day after the NTSB released its findings, blaming PG&E and lax government oversight, another PG&E gas line exploded, destroying a Cupertino, California condo building. The utility’s crews took over an hour and a half to shut off the gas flow after the explosion, and investigators immediately found at least seven leaks in the line.

While there were thankfully no fatalities in this blast, the NTSB will investigate the blast to determine any “commonalities” between it and the San Bruno tragedy.

I’m working on a much broader, more comprehensive report on the safety and hazards of gas pipelines, part of a series covering energy pipelines in North America. Stay tuned for much more.

Comments

Why do you insist on impersonating me & continually post either anti semitic comments or comments designed to make progressives look dumb? Your comments are so obviously right wing, the only one you fool is yourself. You even voted yourself one point. Let me adjust it back to zero for you.

Hows the Alberta tar sands today anonymous? It’s getting harder to ply your trade isn’t it?



 

“Why are you impersonating my name, and why do you insist on stalking me and making nonsense accusations?”

Let’s face it, you are here to troll & thats it. You have not once since you began using this site under the name “anonymous” contributed in any way shape or form. Your posts have just been condescending, vitriloic, anti-semitic & always with an extreme right wing tone. Then you decided that I was getting the better of you, so instead of debating me where you knew you would lose, you chose to smear me by taking a name similar to mine & started posting comments designed to distract, confuse & derail topics.

You have be banned several times now & most of your extreme right wing comments deleted. But I guess your bosses at the Alberta tar sands are on your back to derail this site, so you have to come up with something.

Quite funny your partner in ideology Rick votes me down & you up.



 

“One Year ago…”

“no fatalities in this blast”

It’s positively amazing with the natural gas delivery system we have that we don’t see more infernos and explosions all over the place.

When something finally does happen, it’s a reminder of how remarkably well the system works. I mean who worries about the gas connections in the basement?  only the paranoid.

“If electricity were really that dangerous, then it goes without saying that Desmogblog would be against that, and not natural gas.  The fact that they’re not against electricity proves how dangerous natural gas is.”

There is no opposition to electricity itself, just an opposition to how that energy is created. There is just no need for our energy in a modern 21st century earth to be created by burning things. We have the technology & the know how to move on & we can save our natural resources for an emergency.

“The DOT is obviously taking bribes from the explosion industry, just like you.”

I live in Australia, how do you figure that? You live & work in Alberta. Just who is working for who?


 

“There is just no need for our energy in a modern 21st century earth to be created by burning things.”

Lets put that to the test. Lets see modern agriculture without fossil fuel inputs. (the modern food industry can be understood and can only exist as a system that inputs diesel fuel and outputs groceries)

Lets see at least 1 solar panel factory that runs on solar power. Does one exist? Lets see the sun soaked city of Phoenix run entirely on solar power complete with exclusive solar electric transportation and industry. 

Why isn’t that be done in a city that gets nothing but  sun? Can they at the very least run the Hoover electric dam without fossil fuel inputs? 

No, even for that they seem to need to run around in trucks. The generators and all the equipment and the concrete is built and maintained thanks to fossil fuels.

Renewable power is still just a beautiful dream.

“Lets put that to the test. Lets see modern agriculture without fossil fuel inputs. (the modern food industry can be understood and can only exist as a system that inputs diesel fuel and outputs groceries)”

It’s a bit of an unfair fight to pit something that we have been using for the past 100 years of more against cleantech, that has really only started to get going in the past decade or so. The fossil fuel companies are the richest in the world & they want to keep it that way. They don’t want competition, their don’t want free markets, they don’t want their subsidies to end & they don’t want a fair fight, even if it benefits humanity. Fossil fuel companies lobby hard & pressure politicians to resist allowing cleantech a foothold & you know it.

“Lets see at least 1 solar panel factory that runs on solar power. Does one exist? Lets see the sun soaked city of Phoenix run entirely on solar power complete with exclusive solar electric transportation and industry.”

It’s mighty heroic to make out that there is some sort of cleantech switch that we could just flick & the whole system from energy generation to transport can just failover to cleantech, but we don’t because fossil fuels are just better.

The same argument could have been made a few hundred years ago when whale oil reigned supreme & fossil fuels were the new kid on the block. Naysayers, vested interests & narrow minded people would have been able to point to the low penetration of fossil fuels & declare that there is no future in it, show me one city where everyone is lighting & heating their houses with fossil fuels etc.

“Renewable power is still just a beautiful dream.”

Likewise, fossil fuels were just a twinkle in the prospectors minds. Some saw opportunity. Others though it could not be done, or it’s all too hard.









 

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