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PG&E Promises Aggressive Testing Of Northern California Gas Lines

SAN BRUNO (KCBS) - Pacific Gas and Electric on Wednesday outlined the steps it would take to ensure the safety of every mile of its gas transmission lines in Northern California.

"That'll include options such as replacing pipelines and pressure testing pipelines," said Kirk Johnson, vice president of gas operations at PG&E.

Johnson told a crowd at the San Bruno Senior Center that in some cases, pressure could even be reduced on some lines "to the point where it is no longer operating as a gas transmission line."

KCBS' Tim Ryan Reports:

Johnson said a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission in about six to eight weeks would spell out the specifics.

The company has asked the PUC if it can avoid performing costly hydrostatic testing on some parts of its transmission lines.

But CPUC officials told the San Francisco Chronicle those high pressure tests are the only acceptable way of ensuring the safety on the 700 miles of line where the PG&E's records are missing or incomplete.

Paul Clanon, Executive Director of the CPUC, said the utility's shareholders, not ratepayers, would foot the cost of those tests, which could take up to five years to perform.

The community meeting Wednesday began with applause for Cindy and Alan Braun, two victims critically burned during the explosion and firestorm on Sept. 9, 2010. Cindy Braun's 81-year-old mother, Elizabeth Torres, was among the eight killed by the blast.

Anger, though muted, remained strong among the roughly 150 who attended the meeting.

Some residents felt the utility still has not been punished appropriately for the deadly blast near Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue that destroyed or damaged 37 homes.

"Some of the PG&E hierarchy need to really be held accountable, and I do mean accountable, more or less jail time," said resident Thomas Miller.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his office could not file criminal charges until the National Transportation Safety Board issues its final report on the cause of the blast.

"Our focus is on what occurred back in September and the events on that day and what led up to it on that day."

The NTSB report is expected in August, Wagstaffe said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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