Pipelines and Pioneer
Jim Miguel, the newly hired chief of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, and his deputy chief Joe Rodondi were fast on their feet to calm the two communities following the devastating natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno last month that has now taken the lives of nine people. Miguel and Rodondi appeared before the Pleasanton Planning Commission and most recently the City Council, as they've also done in Livermore, to talk about how they are working with PG&E and state public utility inspectors to ensure that buried gas pipelines that pass through part of Livermore and skirt Pleasanton's southeastern border along Vallecitos Road and Highway 84 pose no threat to the area. That's not to say these pipelines are without worry. PG&E has reported that parts of it are on its "at risk" list, although "risk" may have been too strong a word for a pipeline that is aging and is on PG&E's schedule for physical inspection and possible replacement.
Miguel said he and Rodondi are meeting with PG&E on a regular basis, have joined in the above-ground inspections, are reading and being updated by PG&E's aerial surveillance teams, and have specific route information on where the pipeline is and nearby homes and businesses. A big relief Miguel points out is that the section of the gas pipeline that travels directly through and under parts of Ruby Hill has been abandoned -- although it's still there -- and replaced at the time Ruby Hill was developed with a newer section (that's not on the at-risk list) that follows the Highway 84 route.
I also saw Tom Guarino, head of PG&E's government relations team, at a ceremony opening the new I-680 toll lane. Back from several days of 24/7 onsite duty in San Bruno, Guarino said the Livermore pipeline extends into Sunol and then south to Fremont. It's on PG&E's "Top 100" list of gas pipelines that are part of the utility's ongoing risk management program that is used to prioritize engineering analyses and future work on transmission pipelines. In many cases, that consists solely of monitoring, whereas in others it means repair or replacement. But it's a list of projects PG&E has identified as priority candidates for replacement or upgrade for reasons of public safety. Any issue identified as a threat to public safety is always addressed right away, Guarino said, adding that PG&E doesn't delay or defer work that is necessary for public safety.
As forthright as PG&E has been since San Bruno, it should be noted, however, that the pipeline that exploded there was not on the "Top 100" list of locations that PG&E has since released. Miguel also pointed out that the National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the San Bruno explosion is not complete. It's still unknown why the pipeline there ruptured, exploded and caught fire. Clearly, he said, PG&E and its team of investigators need to know what happened in San Bruno before they can say with confidence that a similar tragedy is highly unlikely in Pleasanton or Livermore.
Still, Miguel and Rodondi's immediate response to check on pipeline safety in the communities they serve makes it comforting to know that they are on top of potential dangers with the data and other tools they would need if a pipeline failed here. They also will report back to both cities and the public as more information becomes available.
Pioneer Cemetery a disappointment
Gravesites go on sale today at Pleasanton's newly expanded Pioneer Cemetery but buyers beware. The cost for double-burial gravesites at $10,198 for full burial and $4,277 for plots holding the cremains of two individuals seems steep given the condition of the cemetery, which the city plans to leave as is. No grass, no sprinkling system. Add to that a regulation stipulating that the sites can't be re-sold once purchased could leave the cemetery with a number of unused plots if owners move away from Pleasanton. These prices and policies need to be revisited.