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California Orders Utilities to Test or Replace Old Gas Lines

California regulators ordered PG&E Corp. and other utilities to test old natural-gas pipelines or replace them.

PG&E, owner of a gas line that exploded and killed eight people in a San Francisco suburb, will need to submit a plan within 60 days to test or install new transmission lines for segments that lack sufficient safety records, the California Public Utilities Commission said today at its regular meeting in San Francisco.

The cost for PG&E to perform tests on how much pressure can be placed on lines could range from $500 million to $1.75 billion over several years, Hugh Wynne, a utility analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote in a research note on May 12.

The 55-year-old pipeline that ruptured last September in San Bruno, California, had welding flaws, federal investigators have said. PG&E had also misidentified its construction design and poor record keeping on pipelines could mean a line is operated at a higher pressure than it is built to withstand, investigators said.

Pipelines installed before 1962 were not required by state law to have pressure testing.

PG&E, based in San Francisco, said has started to test 152 miles of gas lines near populated areas. Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. and Southwest Gas Corp. will also have to submit pipeline plans, the CPUC said today.

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