Message From Our Founders

Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Allentown, PA – Mayor Jim Ruane, San Bruno, CA

A combined 13 deaths were caused by gas explosions in each of our cities. We don’t want anyone to experience the loss of life and loss of peace of mind that our cities have experienced. Federal recommendations have been made, but we saw too much time passing and too little being done. The Mayors’ Council on Pipeline Safety was formed to ]to find out what is going on and do something about it.

On February 18, 2013 we gathered 14 individuals  committed to creating a Mayors’ Council on Pipeline Safety. We discussed the “Who, What, Where and Whys” of forming a Council that would produce meaningful results.

Who

We resolved the Council must have broad representation from grass roots, to industry, state and federal regulators. Implicit was the engagement of NTSB and PHMSA as members of the MCPS team in order to facilitate and achieve the goal of higher safety standards through better, tighter federal regulations. Foundations for supporting tighter federal regulations were initiated by Mayor Pawlowski in forming a US Council of Mayors Pipeline Safety Task Force.

Six months later, in one of MCPS’ first outreach meetings, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia committed pledged their 370,000 highly skilled men and women in the piping industry to the MCPS team. UA support of the 2015 inaugural MCPS Conference  at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia assured its success.

What

We initially defined a “short list” of priorities in order to assure success. The list over time for the MCPS to address will be lengthy and will grow. We proposed to begin with:

  1.  Leak detection:
    • mandates for upgrading leak detection protocol
    • standardization of national regulatory leak detection class
    • leak detection monitoring outside utility dictates
    • regulation on frequency of surveys
  2. Mandates for automatic shut off valves
  3. Injunctive relief and prescriptive measures that ensure the safety of our citizens

In two 2014-2015 US DOT PHMSA TAG  applications, MCPS was awarded funds to address:

  • In leak detection: research and define recommendations for clear definitions and minimum regulations of what qualifies as a leak, how leaks are classified, and what is done about discovered leaks.
  • In distribution lines: conduct a needs assessment for a national campaign on safety regulations based on more consistent and prescriptive distribution line regulations, such as national regulatory standards for leak detection class; leak detection monitoring outside utility dictates, regulations on frequency of surveys; use of plastic vs steel in replacement of aging systems and new systems.
  • Research for development of a model Urban Pipeline Initiative in which utilities and cities share pipeline mapping information
  • Research, gather and analyze existing best practices for gas leak/explosion response and produce recommendations for prescriptive response best practices specific to urban communities.
  • Review current automatic shut off valve studies and/or initiatives to produce recommendations for prescriptive use of automatic shut off valves.

The inaugural 2015 MCPS Conference focused on these initiatives, bringing together federal, state, local, NGO experts to share perspectives in a Chatham House Rule environment created to enhance open transparency. Grant work and recommendations will be complete by December 2015.

Where

This bipartisan Council was founded and initiated in the cities of Allentown, Pennsylvania and San Bruno, California. Further development will be achieved in any city/town or community interested in proactively participating in reducing the risk of gas pipeline explosions. The need for a virtual home base in a national effort resulted in creation of this website.

Why

The why’s were abundant and rapidly identifiable. The fire in San Bruno raged for 1.5 hours before gas was shut down; in Allentown, 6 hours passed before gas was shut down.

Four years after the gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, NTSB recommendations for safety have not been fully completed by PG&E; three years after the explosion in Allentown, UGI is still vetting technologies for better leak detection.

In Pennsylvania, the PUC initially proposed a 20 year cast iron pipeline replacement schedule and a $386,000 fine to UGI, the utility owning the distribution line that exploded. The commission later filed a complaint alleging UGI violated 178 safety regulations and in 2013 increased the fine to $500,000 and “an accelerated plan for replacement.” Although the utility commission found that a UGI work order from December 1979 recommended the pipe for a replacement that never happened, the fine carried the maximum civil penalty allowed by law.

Nearly five years after the San Bruno explosion of a PG&E natural gas transmission line that killed eight people, California regulators approved a record $1.6-billion fine against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in April 2015 for violating state and federal pipeline safety standards. The commission approved the measure by a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Mike Florio not participating. Florio removed himself from deliberating on the San Bruno case at the request of San Bruno city officials who documented Florio as having improper, one-sided communications with PG&E executives. He said at the time he was unclear about the rules and would step aside. The new president of the Public Utilities Commission publicly continues to question PG&E’s commitment to safety.

The fine was the largest in PUC history and one of the largest paid by a U.S. utility, according to PUC President Michael Picker. Total San Bruno-related penalties levied against PG&E now exceed $2.2 billon. The entire $1.6-billion penalty will come from the company and its shareholders — not from ratepayers. The proceeds will be allocated to pipeline safety, taxpayers and customers.

In testimony before the vote, San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane praised the commission’s large penalty. But he complained that the PUC did not heed the city’s call to create an independent panel to monitor PG&E’s safety program. The mayor also criticized the commission for not agreeing to reimburse the city for its more than $2 million in legal costs for participating in PUC proceedings related to the disaster. Ruane vowed to pursue the monitoring issue with the California Legislature and state and federal law enforcement agencies investigating the blast, the PUC and the utility.

 

A national tendency toward lax authority in pipeline safety was the spearhead for Mayors’ Council on Pipeline Safety’s focus on reducing the risk of pipeline failures in our cities by cities themselves by creating initiatives through MCPS. The lack of prescriptive standards and recourse in these tragedies has further incentivized the MCPS.

City officials must play an active role in making our cities safer from pipeline hazards. Through MCPS, mayors across the country will collaborate to define and develop pipeline safety protocols to safeguard communities. Protocols that are reasonable, predictable and enforceable – not simply recommended. That means higher safety standards through better, tighter federal regulations.

 

MCPS will provide networking and education through this web portal to city mayors and municipal officials to help us help each other improve safety through engineering, damage prevention, land use, public education, community awareness, emergency response preparedness and a system of open communications between cities throughout the country. MCPS will craft policy and position papers.

We welcome your participation in MCPS and look forward to working with you to create safer communities.

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Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Allentown, PA

Mayor Jim Ruane, San Bruno, CA


Message From the Founders

Those of us who choose to be a civil servant recognize that our individual and collective responsibility is to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities. We share the knowledge that one of the most difficult challenges we face is the protection of citizens from unseen, unpredictable harms.  We share the experience of feeling helpless when our best efforts are just not enough in an unexpected gas pipeline explosion.  

Mayor Pawlowski and Mayor Ruane brought us together at a time when widespread pipeline build-out competes in priority with replacing aging gas pipeline infrastructure.  We seek to fill the need for someone to proactively put public safety as the first priority.

During a February 18, 2013 founding meeting, we resolved that in order to be successful, the MCPS will embrace all segments of the community; mayors, elected officials, fire chiefs and first responders, government and non-government organizations, public utility commissions, pipeline companies, educators and citizens. We are bipartisan and share the commitment of making our cities safer by proactively reducing the risks of gas pipeline failures.

Allentown , PA: Mayor Ed Pawlowski: ed.pawlowski@allentownpa.gov

San Bruno, CA: Mayor Jim Ruane: jruane@ci.sanbruno.ca.us

San Bruno, CA: City Manager, Connie Jackson: cjackson@ci.sanbruno.ca.us

San Francisco, CA: City Attorney, Dennis J. Herrera:  tara.collins@sfgov.org

San Francisco, CA: Deputy Chief Mark Gonzales: mark.gonzales@sfgov.org

Central County Fire Department, CA: Fire Chief Don Dornell: ddornell@centralcountyfd.org

San Bruno, CA: Retired Fire Chief Hagg

San Bruno, CA: Deputy Chief: Dave Downing: ddowning@sanbruno.ca.gov

San Bruno, CA: Attorney Steve Meyers: smeyers@meyersnave.com

San Bruno, CA: Attorney Britt Strottman: bstrottman@meyersnave.com

Chester County, PA: Lynda Farrell: Pipeline Safety Coalition: lynda@pscoalition.org

Bellingham, WA: Carl Weimer: Pipeline Safety Trust: carl@pstrust.org