"The emergency plans for companies operating natural gas pipelines like the one that exploded in San Bruno, Calif., killing eight people and destroying a neighborhood, are effectively off-limits to the public and industry watchdogs because the federal pipeline safety agency doesn't keep copies in its offices.
The policy of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration means companies can keep their emergency plans hidden from people who might live near natural gas transmission lines. Because the government doesn't have copies of the plans, the public can't use the nation's open records law to request them.
State, city and county officials in California said they do not have copies of the San Bruno pipeline disaster plan, either.
The federal pipeline safety agency doesn't ask natural gas pipeline operators for the plans because it isn't required to do so, agency spokesman Julia P. Valentine said."
Sharon Theimer reports for the Associated Press October 6, 2010.