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KCBS In Depth: Gas Pipeline Safety

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010 brought the issue of safety to the forefront, as many California residents wondered if it could happen again.

TURN, The Utility Reform Network, is an organization looking to ease the concerns of consumers. Executive Director Mark Toney said his group continues to focus on looking out for the best of customers.

"What we focus on is how to get the cleanest energy, best telephone service at the lowest price to consumers," said Toney.

TURN works closely with the California Public Utilities Commission and the utilities themselves, including Pacific Gas & Electric. There are currently hearings going on over the San Bruno blast.

KCBS Interviews TURN Executive Director Mark Toney:

"One has to do with pipeline safety and how to make pipelines safer going forward. There's also an investigation of how this happened in the first place and how come PG&E did not have the proper record keeping and did not do the proper inspections," said Toney. "There's a third proceeding on the penalty that PG&E is going to be assessed for the terrible San Bruno explosion."

There is still a huge concern about what needs to be done to make sure not only gas pipelines, but also the electrical grid are secure.

"There has been a long pattern of major problems with the electrical system. San Francisco alone has several major incidents a year. We also have the problem with Diablo Canyon being a PG&E-generating source and there's a lot of concern about the earthquake integrity of it," said Toney. "We do believe there are serious problems in the electrical system."

Along with seeking to help ratepayers, Toney said TURN has now also turned to the safety aspect involving California's utility companies.

"TURN's focus has always been about getting the best value for the dollar for ratepayers. Our involvement in safety was more about the money being spent for safety and the money being misspent on other things. When it comes to the actual issue of making pipelines safe, that was an area that our staff did not possess the expertise, which is why we hired a pipeline safety consultant to educate us and to get involved and to guide our work on safety. We are now making safety one of our top priorities."

Toney said overall, there is plenty of work that needs to be done to ensure the safety and well being of customers is being made the first priority by utilities and the CPUC.

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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