San Bruno Pipeline That Exploded Had Been Ranked As 'High-Risk'

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San Bruno Fire Update

SAN BRUNO, Calif. — Residents returned Sunday to the ruined hillsides of their suburban San Francisco neighborhood, three days after a natural gas pipeline exploded into a deadly fireball.

A nearby risky segment of the gas line was due to be replaced, the utility responsible said, because it ran through a heavily urbanized area and the likelihood of failure was "unacceptably high." That 30-inch diameter pipe a few miles north was installed in 1948, and was slated to be swapped for new, smaller pipe.

California regulators ordered the utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, to survey all its natural gas lines in the state in hopes of heading off another disaster.

Investigators still don't know what caused Thursday night's blast, and even as dozens of people returned to their scorched homes – accompanied by gas workers to help restore pilot lights and make sure it is safe to turn power back on – officials tried to confirm just how many people died.

The remains of at least four people have been found, and authorities have said four are missing and at least 60 injured, some critically. Two people reported missing after blast were located Sunday, city spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said they're still trying to confirm whether some of the remains they found are human and identify victims.

Streets were crowded Sunday with PG&E cars and trucks, and representatives were handing out gift certificates for grocery stores. Nearly 50 homes were destroyed and seven severely damaged in the blast, while dozens of other homes suffered less severe damage in the fire that sped across 15 acres.

Returning residents were wearing wristbands that show police they live in the area.

Pat and Roger Haro and their dog, Rosie, have been living in a hotel room since Thursday after fleeing their home with the clothes they were wearing, dog food, water and an iPad.

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When they returned, their home was marked with a green tag – indicating less damage than others with yellow or red tags – and their electricity was still off.

"Once I saw the house was still there then I felt a whole lot better," Pat Haro said. "I think we'll be a tighter community."

Patrick Yu said he's had nightmares and headaches since the fireball caused his ceiling to crash next to him on the bed while he slept.

Yu crouched in the doorway after the blast, thinking he was in the middle of an earthquake. When the shaking subsided, he found that the heat had warped the door so much he had to pull with all his strength to get out of the bedroom.

On Sunday morning, the 62-year-old learned his house had been red-tagged, meaning it has extensive damage and will require closer inspection before authorities can declare it safe.

"I have lots of memories in that house," Yu said. "Lots of stuff you can't replace."

A few blocks away, houses have collapsed into black and white debris on ground, with a smell like charcoal in the air. All that remain standing is a row of brick chimneys, while across the street, some homes are undamaged.

Meanwhile, local and federal officials are probing the cause of the explosion that blew a segment of pipe 28 feet long onto the street some 100 feet away, creating a crater 167 feet long and 26 feet wide.

PG&E submitted paperwork to regulators for ongoing gas rate proceedings that said a section of the same gas line about two and a half miles away was within "the top 100 highest risk line sections" in the utility's service territory, the documents show.

The company also considered the portion that ruptured to be a "high consequence area" requiring more stringent inspections called integrity assessments, federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Julia Valentine said.

Nationwide, only about 7 percent of gas lines have that classification, she said.

PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said the company had planned to replace the piece of the gas line mentioned in the documents with 24-inch pipe as a part of its broader proposal to upgrade infrastructure that the commission began considering last year.

Souvall said Sunday that no one complained to the utility's call centers of smelling gas in the San Bruno neighborhood in the week leading up to the blast.

He said the ruptured section, which was installed in 1956, was last checked for leaks in March. The company said later Sunday no leaks were found.

The segment farther north was checked for leaks on Friday and none were found, Souvall added.

"We take action on a daily basis to repair our equipment as needed," he said. "PG&E takes a proactive approach toward the maintenance of our gas lines and we're constantly monitoring our system."

In ordering the company to conduct the leak survey on its natural gas lines, the state's Public Utilities Commission said Sunday that PG&E must give priority to higher pressure pipelines, as well as to lines in areas of high population density.

The order comes after Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, the state's acting governor, asked the commission to order the utility company to conduct an integrity assessment of its natural gas pipeline system.

The commission also plans to appoint an independent expert panel to help with their investigation.

Crews on Sunday packed into a crate the 28-foot section of ruptured natural gas pipeline blown out of the ground and hurled 100 feet in the explosion, National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Christopher Hart said.

Investigators were to ship the pipeline to the NTSB's metallurgy lab in Washington, D.C., for intensive examination, he said.

Also being shipped were two 10-foot sections of pipe removed from the crater Sunday from either side of where the ruptured section had been.

Investigators believed they had collected all the sections needed to reconstruct the metal pipeline but asked that anyone who found metal fragments in the blast area contact the NTSB. The agency also wants to know of any instances of dead vegetation prior to the explosion, which could indicate a gas leak.

At a church service at St. Robert's Catholic Church on Sunday morning, the Rev. Vincent Ring conducted a prayer for the people who died, as well as a prayer for the victims who have not been identified.

"We turn to God and we ask for mercy upon all our brothers who are hurting so badly, whose lives have changed so drastically and whose help is so badly need from us," Ring said.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press video journalist Haven Daley and writers Lisa Leff and Marcus Wohlsen in San Bruno and John S. Marshall and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco. Burke reported from Fresno, Calif.

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SAN BRUNO, Calif. — Residents returned Sunday to the ruined hillsides of their suburban San Francisco neighborhood, three days after a natural gas pipeline exploded into a deadly fireball. A ne...
SAN BRUNO, Calif. — Residents returned Sunday to the ruined hillsides of their suburban San Francisco neighborhood, three days after a natural gas pipeline exploded into a deadly fireball. A ne...
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billyzazen   0 minute ago (2:51 AM)
solid work.... why we allow monopolies in the utility industry I have no idea... oh... wait... because rich businessmen bribe politicians.... that's right..... ahhh.... well.... SOLID WORK
insanityfollows   1 hour ago (1:46 AM)
Corporations and utilities have cut, cut, cut payrolls to show shareholders positive cash flows quarter after quarter, so they can sell still more stock. In reality, every business and corporation have down cycles, which is why people USED TO buy stock-for long term growth. Now, everything is traded at a frenzied pace, and we have all kinds of short-selling, etc... which have allowed the banking system and the markets to work in concert with corporations and the disposition of stock. The shareholder rules, and they want non-stop profits. To hell with the employees, safety regulations, or even any form of integrity in running a corporation these days. All of the cuts in payrolls have resulted in inability to manage safety among other things, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. Now, to make matters worse, since the Citizens United ruling by the supreme court, corporations now enjoy the same rights as private citizens, so good luck going up to bat against them if something horrible like this happens. They now have expanded "rights" which could overrule some of the regulatory laws (if there are any left after the Bush administration) that govern them.

My prayers are with this community. I hope PG & E steps up to the plate and does the right thing by you all. I also hope they step up and speed efforts to reduce the numbers of potential pipeline failures.
CANTHATBE   21 minutes ago (2:29 AM)
They will continue to do what they have always done. Cut back on repairs and funnel the money to executive salaries. They will just cross their fingers and hope they are retired before the inevitable happens again.
Jim281   2 hours ago (1:06 AM)
What a horrible tragedy for the people of San Bruno!

It also represents a wak-up call! There are many incredibly old pipelins throughout the nation. As they get old, the inside corrodes, and results in thinner pipe wall thickness. That translates to the pipes becoming unable to hade their rated pressures any longer. As for th pipeline companies, they are onlyinterested in profit, and are not about to start spending more on safety (replacing old pipes) unless they are commanded to do so by the feds.
advocatusdiaboli   2 hours ago (12:47 AM)
It is too bad for those execs who cared nothing about he risk of life considering only their monetary reward--millions and millions in settlements are ahead and they'll pas the cots on to rate payers. The corporate shield of liability needs to go. People in corporations need to b held personally accountable for their decisions. Our founders did not create our nation with the corporation in mind regarding their belief in free speech and individual responsibility. We need to cut out that cancer now.
ThomasPaine1776   2 hours ago (12:22 AM)
Nationalize all utilities, and energy: Oil, Electricity, Water, gas and Trash pickup. End "Privatization". European socialism is yet one more thing that we Americans need to copy from them. They gave us Constitutional democratic republican secular government, compulsory public education, the graduated income tax, baseball (rounders), apple pie and even cars, which were invented by a guy by the name of Carl Benz in 1879, in a horse stable near Mannheim, Germany. We Americans think were so darn special. We have not contributed anything to western civilization, except one thing: Jazz. That we invented. Everything else, we copied, mostly from Europe. We should do it again and start socializing services like healthcare, for starters.
Watchingitall   4 hours ago (11:13 PM)
I live in the Bay Area and get to read news about this region on the LA page. Thanks to HuffPo for the geography lesson.
merighen   4 hours ago (11:09 PM)
There is no compensation adequate for loss of life. And then there are those who suffered and will suffer the rest of their lives as a result of their burn injuries. They all have my prayers.

While those of us in other communities served by PG&E feel relieved that it didn't happen in our neighborhood, the reality is that ultimately the ratepayers will provide some portion of the necessary compensation to our unfortunate neighbors.

PG&E can express all kinds of caring and concern, and some of the people making the statements probably even feel what they're saying. At the very least, they owe these victims the honor of making certain that this doesn't happen again. To anyone. Anywhere. They are part of industry organizations that heavily lobby governments at all levels across the US to let them self-police.

We can all tell that our highways are deteriorating, and bridges, overpasses and other above-ground structures are easier to inspect. To think that a vast network of old pipeline like this winds through some of our most highly populated areas is a very sobering prospect.
AngelaQuattrano   3 hours ago (11:32 PM)
The problem with all these infrastructure issues is that the response is to step up inspection.

No, we don't need to do more inspections. We need to fix the things that we know are catastrophes waiting to happen.
Jayjaybe   4 hours ago (10:44 PM)
This article is a mixture of editing quality. The second paragraph is contradicted or corrected by later sections of the article. That gas main was installed in 1956, as it states later but the "1946" was left in place. The definitions of "high risk" are oblique phrasing that's inconsistent throughout the article.

In the live broadcast interviews on the morning after this explosion and fire, a spokesman for the CA Public Utilities Commission explained that the categories of risk for such pipelines are based on density and proximity of housing, not on the condition or integrity of the physical pipe. This article exercises considerable license with that information.
Pema   4 hours ago (10:26 PM)
san diego gas and electric SDG&E to my knowledge has not done the same. i live so close to the beach our glas lines are really old, and we do get quakes, small yet checking gas lines after would seem to be useful. our gas lines are old. i live by the beach so these ares have been developed for nearly a century. our sidewalks are old, our streets narrow. we are "charming" !
Michael Valentine   4 hours ago (11:19 PM)
Ya I love the charming water fountains that sprout up out of the rusted out cast iron water pipes. Increased taxes to pay for it all?

I really and truly doubt it.
Texan POd   5 hours ago (10:12 PM)
Did anyone notice the headline of the story under this one?

"California Orders Inspections Of All Natural Gas Lines"

The only problem is, they are ordering PG&E ONLY to inspect their lines, NOT an entire industry like Obama did with BP and Oil.
Jayjaybe   4 hours ago (10:30 PM)
You're being disingenuous with your spin. PG&E is not a Federal agency; it's under the jurisdiction of California's Public Utilities Commission. PG&E's normal operations are not in a direct relationship to Federal agencies. Since this is a primary concern for and with the state, maintenance, before and after this disaster, are under state supervision. California is not the Gulf of Mexico, which is not under any state's territorial control.
WhereBeTheOilBeezys   5 hours ago (10:11 PM)
High risk is someone using the restroom immediately after another person has fouled the air in it already. A time bomb is what this is in my opinion. I mean seriously the pipe has been in the ground since 48 and nobody ever thought it might be a good idea to replace it ? Perhaps a wielder is reading this and can comment on the quality of craftsmanship there was on pipes back in the mid 20th century.
Sugarmaker   5 hours ago (9:48 PM)
Darned smokers.
Hufffan   5 hours ago (9:40 PM)
For those wondering if you live near or over a high pressure gas pipeline
here is a link to the National Pipeline Mapping System. It's interactive and you can zoom in to your area and see where large pipelines are running underground. It's experiencing high traffic since San Bruno so it's best to use late night or early mornings.
tuberider   6 hours ago (8:38 PM)
Wait. The pipeline "was due to be replaced" or the entire California leadership?
Turukano   6 hours ago (9:11 PM)
If the taxpayers of California were willing to pay reasonable taxes, this would not have been a problem. Everyone wants something for nothin'.
Pleroma   6 hours ago (9:19 PM)
PG & E is a private company
whitemale08   6 hours ago (8:36 PM)
You can visit any Third World country, and I lived in a lot of them, in Latin America and Africa and you will hear on their national new media WARNINGS of dangerous infrastructure, almost nightly.

However none of it is fixed because the IMF/World Parasites have, for decades, forced these countries to bail out Wall Street/City of London international banksters instead of investing in development.

Now the same financial criminals we are bailing out and have ravaged most of the world are using 'deficits' to scare us from investing in rebuilding our nation's infrastructure.

Instead of the opposite, where we say to the banksters: "...we clawback the 23.7 trillion in bail out support so we can use it to invest infrastructure", we've caved in to intimidation when Warren Buffet told Charly Rose: " [bail outs] were absolutely neccessary".

So there you have it folks, a broken infrastructure and nothing but excuses that say: "...we had to bail out the banksters to save the economy".

The American SUCKER, you gotta love 'em.
Veritas 1   4 hours ago (10:26 PM)
When you say they were forced to bail out Wall Street international banksters, do you mean pay back a fraction of the debt their governments borrowed?
whitemale08   4 hours ago (11:02 PM)
...sure, a good portion of their debt owed is legitimate.

However Wall Street/City of London uses the bond market and the ratings agencies, like Standard & Poors, to ensure that these countries will never be able to pay that back.

So when a country needs to improve its infrastructure development so the economy can be more productive to pay back those loans.

Wall Street/City of London hates it and so it makes sure that all tax revenue from these governments goes to pay off the never ending bail outs of the banksters, who shoul've simply filed for bankruptcy for giving out unpayable loans in the first place.

That's the real power these banksters get from the bail outs, the paper money means nothing.

It's the power of these banksters to keep nations in perpetual debt-serfdom that matters.

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