San Bruno still re­build­ing after explosion

A day before the four-year anniversary of a deadly natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Mayor Jim Ruane said Monday morning that he expects to have repairs in the community mostly completed by next year.

The Sept. 9, 2010, explosion of a PG&E gas line killed eight people, injured 66, destroyed 38 homes and severely damaged 17 others in the city’s Crestmoor neighborhood.

Ruane said:

“Since that terrible day four years ago, the San Bruno community has shown that it will not be defeated by tragedy. … Although the road to full recovery is long and difficult, the families of the Crestmoor neighborhood continue to show their strength and resilience.”

In the last four years, the city has been working on rebuilding the neighborhood’s infrastructure and over the next 18 months expects to complete work rebuilding streets, sidewalks, sewer systems and parks. The city has already completed $15 million in infrastructure repairs, Ruane said.

All necessary underground work was recently completed, and the remaining work will mostly deal with replacing aboveground infrastructure, including new street paving, sidewalks and streetlights, Ruane said.

The neighborhood park will also be rebuilt and expanded, and the mouth of Crestmoor Canyon, which burned in the massive fires following the explosion, will be reforested, Ruane said.

Meanwhile, 24 homes have been rebuilt and the previous residents have moved back in. Over the next year 10 new homes are expected to be under construction for new residents, and all 17 damaged homes have been repaired and are reoccupied, Ruane said:

“It’ll be beautiful when it’s done. … But we want to do it once and we want to do it right.”

Ruane also reiterated his criticism of a record $1.4 billion fine and penalty levied against PG&E by the California Public Utilities Commission last week for the San Bruno explosion. He said the $950 million in fines to be directed to the state’s general fund should be used instead for gas pipeline safety.

Ruane did not say whether the city would appeal the CPUC’s decision. PG&E announced its own appeal last week, arguing like the city that the fine should go toward safety improvements rather than the state’s general fund, but also to ensure that the $2.7 billion in improvements the company says it has already made are taken into account.

But Ruane has argued that PG&E should not get credit for improvements he said should have been made decades ago, tracing the failure of the pipeline that he said overlooked recommendations by company engineers, sacrificing safety for shareholder profits.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found the explosion was caused by a defective seam weld in a pipeline segment that was incorrectly listed in PG&E records as seamless.

Ruane also has called for the creation of a Pipeline Safety Trust as a watchdog for PG&E’s 40,000 miles of underground gas pipelines, a step that San Bruno officials said the CPUC saw the value in but found that it was not PG&E’s responsibility to finance. In addition to the CPUC penalties, the utility is facing federal criminal charges in San Francisco.

It is accused of one count of obstructing justice in the NTSB investigation into the explosion and 27 counts of violating a federal pipeline safety law in connection with several pipelines.