City officials in San Bruno, Calif., site of a massive natural gas explosion in September 2010 that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes, have criticized the state's investigation of the blast as poorly researched and unsubstantiated.
In a related development, the adjacent City of San Francisco intends to sue several government agencies for failing to enforce standards that might have prevented the San Bruno blast.
California appointed a blue ribbon panel to investigate the San Bruno explosion, and the group recently issued a report blaming the explosion on a 2008 sewer project. An attorney for San Bruno sent a sharply worded criticism to the state saying the report was marred by numerous omissions and erroneous conclusions, according to a report in The San Francisco Examiner.
The letter noted that the panel failed to interview the sewer contractors, review the project specifications or talk to San Bruno engineers who signed off on the work, according to the Examiner. Instead, the panel relied on a gas industry group's report that incorrectly described the scope of the sewer project and the findings of a consultant who did not know all the facts, the letter said.
The Examiner reported that San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said that the state panel's focus on the sewer job diverted from a "real and fact-based evaluation" of the true causes of the explosion.
Meanwhile, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced his intention to sue several state agencies under the Pipeline Safety Act, according to the Examiner. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration "have a poor track record in actual enforcement, instead adopting a minimalist, 'check the boxes' approach to their regulatory obligations under the act," the letter said.
The blue ribbon panel tasked with investigating the explosion also criticized the CPUC, according to the Examiner. It noted that low-ranking CPUC employees had discovered problems at PG&E, but their concerns were never seriously considered by the people at the top of the agency.
"As evidenced by the San Bruno explosion, natural gas pipelines that are not adequately maintained pursuant to an effective integrity management program pose a serious threat to those who live, work and gather near them," Herrera wrote. "That includes thousands of people who live and work in areas adjacent to the gas transmission pipelines running through San Francisco."
Click here to read the San Francisco Examiner story on the San Bruno reaction to the state investigation.
Click here to read the San Francisco Examiner story on San Francisco's threatened lawsuit.