When news outlets reported four dead in the days after this month’s tragic PG&E pipeline explosion in San Bruno, observers here in California and nationwide hoped the number wouldn’t continue to rise. Unfortunately, this week marked the passing of James Emil Franco, the eighth victim of the PG&E explosion. Franco, 58, was in his room 200 feet from the explosion when it occurred.
With eight now dead, more than 50 injured, and more than 40 homes destroyed, it is important for government to enact stricter laws that will force utilities to be more safety conscious. Otherwise, these accidents will occur again and again. The past decade has shown numerous dangerous pipeline explosions, including the 2004 Walnut Creek pipeline explosion that killed five leading to major lawsuits litigated in part by GJEL attorneys Jim Larsen and Luke Ellis.
Fortunately, state and national governments are already taking steps to safeguard against future deadly pipeline explosions. In a hearing Tuesday, Sens Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein teamed up to criticize the utility’s oversight leading up to the explosion, and attempts to contain it after the fact. Boxer also requested the immediate inspection of 3,600 miles of California pipelines, followed by the creation of automatic valves to better control pipelines in populated areas.
As it stands, said Feinstein at the hearing, “each inspector is responsible for over 2,000 miles of pipeline. That’s the distance from San Francisco to Chicago.” Boxer added, “it’s on our collective shoulders now after this happened. We have been warned.”
The Department of Transportation has also pledged to increase its safety procedures for gas pipelines throughout California and nationwide. Earlier this month, the DOT proposed increasing the maximum fine for violations involving death or major environmental harm from $1 million to $2.5 million and adding 40 regulators to the DOT over the next five years.
Let’s hope such changes occur quickly, so that the threat of future explosions, which left Franco and seven others dead this month, will become less present. As always, our thoughts go out to the families and residents of San Bruno.
Photo credit: smi23le