In the wake of the September 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people, it would be understandable to expect that residents in the Bay Area who smell natural gas in the air of their neighborhood would be concerned that another such disaster could be in the offing. Out of an abundance of caution that San Francisco personal injury attorney Gregory J. Brod would agree was the prudent course to take, dozens of residents were evacuated briefly Thursday morning in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood after a gas line unexpectedly broke.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the evacuation was prompted by a rupture in a gas line caused by a construction crew that was working on Divisadero Street near Pine Street. Officials from the San Francisco Fire Department then went door to door in a four-square-block area asking residents to leave their homes. At 11 a.m., one hour after the construction crew’s digging caused the line to rupture, the leak was capped.
“When we arrived on the scene, there was a loud hissing sound and a very strong smell of gas,” SFFD Battalion Chief Khai Ali said.
One could say that there was a hissing of a very different sort connected with the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion in San Francisco on Wednesday from safety advocates and critics of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, their disappointment arose from a criminal indictment that a federal grand jury handed down Tuesday that accused PG&E of 12 violations of the federal Pipeline Safety Act but did not charge any PG&E executives or managers who made crucial decisions leading up to the Sept. 9, 2010, pipeline explosion.
Included among the questionable decisions made by PG&E executives and managers that were cited in the indictment was the use of a pipeline inspection method that failed to detect the problem with the San Bruno line – a badly made seam weld – as well as the operation of a 6,000 mile natural gas transmission system despite the fact that PG&E officials knew records were missing for large sections of the system.
“It’s frustrating that it’s just corporate charges and not the individual, because the individuals are hiding behind the corporate veil,” said Carl Weimer, who runs the Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy group in Washington state. “The more you could hold people accountable the better. It really drills down to who really the wrongdoers were. The way it’s left now, it’s just the general corporation, with no individuals accountable.”
The charges listed in the Tuesday indictment carry a maximum penalty of $6 million and the possibility that a judge will appoint a monitor for PG&E’s natural-gas operations.
Fortunately, in the case of the gas line rupture in San Francisco, the problem was quickly identified and corrected, and residents of the affected neighborhood were eventually able to return home, but it is a cautionary tale in a region with an aging infracstructure. The victims in the San Bruno explosion, on the other hand, including loved ones of those people who were killed, the people who were injured, and those who lost their homes, are still trying to heal from the physical and emotional scars from that disaster. If you or a loved one has been injured or worse in a gas pipeline explosion or fire, please call the experienced attorneys at the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation.
-James Ambroff-Tahan contributed to this article.