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San Bruno Explosion Shows Need For Stricter Pipeline Laws

San Bruno explosion victims are busy rebuilding their lives and beginning the process of recovering from their tragic loss. California legislators and regulators are now considering stricter regulations governing gas pipeline safety. Stricter regulations are definitely needed so that such a catastrophe will not occur again. Most people didn’t know that grounded pipelines also present a deadly danger until San Bruno’s explosion occurred.

The horrific event in San Bruno brought national attention to other oil leaks, as well. Enbridge Inc.’s pipeline ruptured in early July, sending as much as 1 million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Enbridge discovered another leak in September, this time in Romeoville, Illinois.

It is clear that we need tougher regulations for America’s pipelines. A tougher regulatory system is crucial as America’s pipelines age. Experts state that the life of a steel pipe is approximately 50 years; thousands of pipelines throughout the country are older than that.

The San Bruno pipeline was in that category. President Obama has proposed legislation to begin addressing the problem. The bill, named the “Strengthening Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act of 2010,” seeks to increase public safety through a variety of ways: Increasing the potential fine for violators to $2.5 million employing 40 additional pipeline inspectors, permitting the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to study the nation’s pipelines, determining whether it is appropriate to enforce the nation’s strictest pipeline safety protocol for all American pipelines, not just those near urban areas or bodies of water. Congress and state legislative bodies are also considering legislation to address the problem of gas pipeline safety, including the requirement of automatic shutoff valves in urban areas.

George W. Bush signed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, after pipelines exploded in New Mexico and Washington. The act was never able to achieve its vision because of a lack of resources. Here we are many years later, with the same risk still threatening our families. Fortunately, we aren’t completely powerless against the problem -there are several important actions Americans can take.

What Can Citizens Do?

Anyone who smells natural gas should immediately contact the gas company. If multiple households detect the odor, then each should call. Take the smell seriously, as a threat, and demand that the company send someone to investigate immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry; if you feel your family is at risk, then leave the area.

Americans should also demand action by elected officials. Ensure that your state representative, congressperson, or local official is taking action to make your area’s pipelines safer and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to do the same.

The last thing people can do is hold the responsible people accountable. We place a lot of faith in gas companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric and they must demonstrate that they are responsible corporate citizens. If your land has been contaminated by oil or another toxic substance or if you have suffered property damage or bodily injury by a gas or electrical fire, you need to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A reputable lawyer will vigorously work to hold culpable parties responsible for your losses so that you can focus on getting your life back in order.

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