Senate hearing to focus on pipeline explosion


Julie Small/KPCC

San Bruno police cordoned off the Glenview neighborhood where a natural gas pipeline exploded Sept. 9, 2010.

The San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion is front and center at a U.S. Senate hearing tomorrow on Capitol Hill. Top officials from the Northern California city and PG&E will testify. California’s senior senator is the first witness.

Usually, Sen. Dianne Feinstein asks the questions at Senate hearings. This time, she’s testifying before the Commerce Committee about the explosion south of San Francisco that killed seven people and destroyed more than three dozen homes.

Feinstein and her colleague Barbara Boxer introduced legislation last week that requires automatic shut-off valves, doubles the number of federal safety inspectors, and increases fines for safety violations.

Also scheduled to testify are the federal officials in charge of pipeline safety, the head of California’s Public Utilities Commission, the president of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and the mayor of San Bruno.

Senators expect a full report on the latest developments in the continuing investigation.

The White House supports tougher fines and more inspectors. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says his department needs “stronger authority” to ensure the safety and reliability of the nation’s pipelines.

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