"PG&E Rejected Warning on Shut-Off Valves"

"The California utility whose gas pipeline exploded last fall had rejected federal recommendations to install more automatic shut-off valves to help reduce the risks from a rupture and fire, an investigative panel was told Tuesday.

The Pacific Gas & Electric Company pipeline in San Bruno, Calif., erupted into a massive fireball on Sept. 9 that raged for 91 minutes before firefighters could get close enough to begin tamping it down. The fire killed eight people, injured scores more and destroyed or damaged 108 homes.

Department of Transportation guidelines call for the installation of automatic or remote shut-off valves to reduce the risks of a conflagration, according to documents released at a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing into the accident.

However, PG&E had rejected the guidance, finding in a 2006 memo that most damage from a pipeline rupture occurred during the first 30 seconds. The memo concluded that automatic values "will not provide additional safety to people or prevent property damage."

The memo reflects a widely held belief by the gas utility industry, according to PG&E records."

Alan Levin reports for USA TODAY March 2, 2011.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011