San Francisco sues US pipeline agency for PG&E explosion
17 February 2012
San Francisco is sueing a federal agency for failing to enforce safety standards before the 2010 explosion of a PG&E Corp. gas pipeline in San Bruno, California, that killed eight people. In addition, negotiations between PG&E and the San Bruno municipality over restitution for the blast have apparently stalled.
The San Bruno pipeline explosion killed eight people, injured more than 60 and destroyed 38 homes
The lawsuit, filed on February 14 in a federal court in San Francisco, claims the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ignored safety standards for more than 10 years before the explosion, according to Attorney Dennis Herrera.
“One of the most troubling findings to emerge in the 18 months since the San Bruno tragedy is that regulators were either asleep at the switch or far too cozy with the industry they’re supposed to regulate,” Herrera said in a statement.
The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is part of the U.S. Transportation Department, “continues to flout recommendations” from the National Transportation Safety Board, which faulted PG&E and inadequate governmental enforcement for the explosion, Herrera said. The suit seeks a court order requiring the agency to enforce gas pipeline standards, Herrera said.
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is “committed to its core responsibility to protect people and the environment” and “devoted hundreds of hours of staff support and technical expertise agency” to understanding the San Bruno explosion, spokeswoman Jeannie Layson said in an e-mailed statement.
Meanwhile, negotiations between PG&E and the San Bruno municipality over restitution for the blast have stalled, according to a statement by the municipality on 16 February.
San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane says restitution talks with PG&E have stalled
“We have negotiated in good faith with PG&E to reach a fair settlement on the restitution that is due to our community,” said San Bruno mayor Jim Ruane. “We are frustrated the company doesn’t seem to understand its negligence was responsible for the biggest natural gas disaster in our nation’s history and now they simply want to walk away after doing the minimum required by law. We will not let that happen.”
Greg Pruett, PG&E senior vice president of corporate affairs, said the company was committed to working with the city and denied talks had stalled. He pointed to numerous ways the company has been supportive including a $100 million Rebuild San Bruno Fund which has helped with immediate relief, emergency assistance, property damage, rebuild assistance; and a $70 million trust to cover direct costs related to the fire and cost of recovery.
Ruane said the $70 million trust, which the city can bill for direct costs, is only that amount on paper. In reality, the company has put in only $12 million.
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