Two people who survived last year's deadly natural gas explosion in a San Francisco suburb are set to break ground on a new home, which would make them the first to rebuild in the neighborhood since the blast.
Bob and Nancy Hensel are the first of the residents affected by the September explosion to be issued a building permit in the Glenview neighborhood of San Bruno. They plan to start construction within a few weeks.
City Manager Connie Jackson expects a second permit will be issued this week. She says staff is reviewing plans for two other projects.
The pipeline rupture killed eight people, injured dozens and sparked a fireball that consumed 38 homes overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
The news was welcome after some residents expressed fears of rebuilding in a neighborhood located so close to the pipeline.
On Tuesday, a state administrative judge issued a plan that would require the pipeline's operator Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and all gas transmission operators in California to conduct pressure tests or replace pieces of their pipelines that have not already been tested.
The judge's plan still needs majority approval by the California Public Utility Commission before it can take effect. The commission was scheduled to take the matter up at its meeting June 9.
If approved, it would require all companies to submit a plan for testing or replacing all untested segments of the state's high-pressure gas transmission system _ like the one that exploded last year.
Service to gas customers would not be disrupted by the testing, officials said.
"The implementation plan would allow us to have an orderly testing sequence so that there would not be service outages for customers," said Terrie Prosper, a commission spokeswoman, in an email.
The plan is expected to undergo extensive hearings to explore how it would affect costs to the companies and ratepayers, Prosper said.
While the National Transportation Safety Board has yet to determine what caused the 44-year-old transmission line to burst, the testing of these high-pressure pipelines has become an issue after PG&E failed to locate records for some segments.
On Tuesday, the commission released the latest status report submitted by PG&E about its search for pressure testing records. The company had found pressure testing records for an additional 134 miles of its pipeline system.
The company's report said it had now submitted pressure testing documents for 73 percent of its entire network. It is still searching for the rest.
Under the judge's proposed testing or replacement plan PG&E operates about 705 miles of pipeline that would be covered, Prosper said.
"Today's proposed decision is a positive step in raising the public safety bar," said Brittany Chord, a spokeswoman for PG&E. "As we work to verify our records and validate safe operating pressures for our pipelines, we remain committed to working with regulators, public safety officials and industry experts."