Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Must Read: Was It Pipe Corrosion, SmartMeters, or too Much Pressure in PG&E’s Pipeline; Reports of Gas Odors Appears to be a Rumor

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. PG&E had been worried for at least a year that possible corrosion might cause its San Bruno pipeline to explode, the Chron reports. Investigators are now looking at whether corroded pipes led to the deadly explosion that killed four people last week and incinerated a neighborhood. Meanwhile, a consumer’s group, Californians for Renewable Energy, is raising questions as to whether PG&E’s controversial SmartMeters may have sparked the blast, the Chron adds. The group filed a complaint with federal regulators, alleging that SmartMeter wireless transmissions could have created an electrical current in the pipe and ignited the natural gas.

2. In addition, the Mercury News reports that PG&E has expressed worries in the past about too much pressure in its pipelines resulting in explosions. Federal investigators are now examining whether too much pressure in the aging San Bruno pipe caused it to blow up. Private experts also tell the paper that the huge crater caused by the blast indicates that there was more pressure in the pipe than PG&E has acknowledged.

3. Reports that San Bruno residents smelled gas in the days before the explosion appear to be just rumors, the Chron reports. The issue of whether those reports were accurate is important, because if there really had been gas odors before the explosion, then it would take investigators down a different path in their probe and possibly away from the true cause of the blast. Federal investigators said that they have only been able to verify one complaint about gas odor prior to the blast and it was for a leak that was fixed several weeks before.

4. UC Regents unanimously approved a plan that requires most university workers to pay more into their own pension plans, the Chron reports. The regents also praised proposals from UC President Mark Yudoff to further slash the system’s pension obligations. UC’s unfunded pension costs are expected to reach $40 billion in the next four years. But union workers strongly object to the pension overhaul, because they say it unfairly targets lower-paid university employees while shielding those with the highest salaries.

5. Bay Area home sales plummeted in August for the second straight month, dropping 10.9 from August 2009, and reaching its lowest point in eighteen years, the Chron reports. Home sales plunged 23 percent in July compared to the previous year. The CoCo Times reports that home sales dropped 12.2 percent in Alameda County in August and 12 percent in Contra Costa County.

6. And the federal government says that more people are living in poverty than at any time in the past 51 years, when it began tracking such information, the CoCo Times reports. About four million Americans fell into poverty last year, raising the total number to 44 million nationwide.

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