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PG&E launches pipeline safety inspections this week in Ripon

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POSTED July 2, 2013 3:04 a.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company is launching its natural gas Pipeline Safety Enhancement Program (PSEP) this week around Ripon that is expected to continue through the end of August and possibly into early September.

PG&E spokeswoman Nicole Liebelt said on Monday afternoon that the “regularly scheduled” operation to verify the integrity of the pipeline and insure public safety in the multi-year program began two years ago.

The program was initiated in 2011 after the horrific disaster in 2010 with explosions and fires in a San Bruno neighborhood that took the lives of eight people and consumed nearly 40 homes.  The long established Ripon pipeline skirts the western city limits and runs parallel to 7th Street on the south side of the city.

The Ripon part of the pipeline safety program runs 10.1 miles begins on West Ripon Road near Oleander Avenue, east to Jack Tone Road, south to Doak Boulevard and South Vera Avenue.  The segment runs southeast to and alongside Kiernan Avenue in Salida near Williams Road moving east to Kiernan Court just east of Highway 99 where it ends.

New transmission line sections will be installed where needed determined by preliminary testing.  Automated line active seismic fault crossing areas will also be installed that will allow for remote or automated gas shutoffs in the event of a rupture, the PG&E spokeswoman said.

A specialized state of the art tool will be added inside the pipeline to constantly monitor the integrity of the line at any given moment.  Hydro static pressure testing will be used to provide more information and insure the safety and strength of the natural gas system, Liebelt said.

Ripon residents received automated phone messages on Sunday telling them of the project and advising that there could be traffic detours during the pipeline renovation.

In early June, the City of San Bruno officials charged that PG&E should be fined some $4 billion for “gross negligence” for the natural gas explosion that claimed eight of its residents’ lives in the inferno.

A final decision in the case is expected to be made later this year by the Public Utilities Commission.   Investigators have reportedly concluded that the fall of 2010 explosion that rocked the San Bruno community was related to missteps in inspections, repairs and record keeping.  Critics have faulted the PUC due to what has been cited as lax oversight of the utility’s operations.

In the summer of 2010 PG&E replaced 2.5 miles of natural gas pipeline running from Woodward Avenue to West Ripon Road south of Manteca.  That stretch of 24-inch line had been ranked as the 43rd worst natural gas segment that the gas utility based on their high risk assessment.

A list of the top 100 natural gas pipeline segments that PG&E believed were in need of possible corrective maintenance work was in response to pressure from the California PUC, the California Legislature and then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The company has some 20,000 natural gas pipelines within its service territory. 

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