Gov. Brown signs 3 bills tightening pipeline safety

Three bills that will tighten safety restrictions on natural gas pipelines as well as prioritize revenue for upgrades instead of executive compensation were signed into law Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown signed 34 pieces of legislation Sunday, including Assembly Bills 578, 861 and 1456, all sponsored by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

Hill’s district includes the Crestmoor neighborhood in San Bruno, which was devastated when a PG&E natural gas pipeline exploded in September 2010. The blast and subsequent fire killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes. Hill has made it a priority to increase regulations on utility companies to prevent another disaster.

AB 578 will require the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that oversees and regulates utilities, to adopt the standards set forth by the National Transportation Safety Board. If the commission opts not to adopt the standards, it must submit reasons for the decision in writing.

Provisions under AB 861 would “ensure utilities don’t cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to convert ratepayer dollars into bonuses for executives,” according to Hill.

The assemblyman said company executives often receive big payouts even when there are pipelines that need to be replaced and standards that need to be upgraded.

With AB 1456, the CPUC will be required to adopt performance metrics for pipeline safety and will have the power to levy fines to those utilities that are found to be performing poorly.

Hill is scheduled to host a news conference announcing the signing of the legislation at the CPUC building in San Francisco at 10 a.m. today.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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