California Assembly examines natural gas line oversight following San Bruno explosion

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Flames from a massive fire September 9, 2010 in San Bruno, California on the day a gas pipeline exploded.

A state Assembly committee planned a hearing today to examine the California Public Utilities Commission and its oversight of natural gas pipelines. Last year, eight people died when a Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline exploded in the northern California city of San Bruno.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) said he wants to make sure the PUC is placing a top priority on public safety.

"There’s, I think, a great deal that raises questions about whether the Public Utilities Commission over a long span of time has carried out its responsibilities consistent with the public interest," said Dickinson. Dickinson is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review, which is holding today's hearing

Dickinson said the explosion of a gas pipeline in Rancho Cordova on Christmas Eve in 2008 should have served as a wakeup call. That blast killed one person and injured five others.

He says "examination has shown" that the regulatory agency didn't have a sufficient number of experienced people dedicated to monitoring pipeline safety.

The lawmaker credits the PUC with making some improvements since the blast, including hiring more personnel.

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