PG&E To Test For Faulty Transmission Lines

California's Pacific Gas & Electric Company plans to test and possibly replace hundreds of miles of aging gas pipelines. The move comes after a review of previous safety tests brought on by last year's explosion in San Bruno, Calif. That incident killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

California regulators are recommending stiff fines for Pacific Gas and Electric Company in connection with a deadly pipeline explosion last September. The blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in the town of San Bruno. Regulators say the company must hand over all pipeline records or face fines of up to one million dollars a day.

NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES: After the San Bruno explosion and fire, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered the company to turn over pipeline pressure test records for all the transmission lines running through populated areas. PG&E turned over some records, but said it couldn't find others. That's not acceptable, says commission executive director Paul Clannon.

Mr. PAUL CLANNON (Executive Director, California Public Utilities Commission): They need to get the message strongly that business as usual doesn't cut it for natural gas pipeline safety, and they need to get us the records that we need to set those pressures safely.

GONZALES: Before the explosion, the utility thought the ruptured line, built in 1956, was seamless. A federal investigation has shown that it was welded together, and that those welds were sub-standard.

Earlier this week, PG&E said it would test and perhaps replace more than one 150 miles of transmission lines with high-pressure water, a process called hydrostatic testing. Until now, the company had resisted calls for such measures, citing cost and inconvenience. A spokesman says it will continue its search for records.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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