SAN FRANCISCO
07/15/2011 07:35 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2011

Dennis Herrera Suing PG&E Regulators: City Attorney Announces Intent To Sue In Wake Of San Bruno Explosion

With the anniversary of the tragic San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed several homes just weeks away, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Thursday that he's taking pipeline regulators to task.

Herrera made his intent to sue both the California Public Utilities Commission (PG&E's closest regulator) as well as federal agencies known in a letter to the CPUC, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Governor Jerry Brown. "The CPUC and PHMSA have a poor track record in actual enforcement, instead adopting a minimalist, 'check the boxes' approach to their regulatory obligations under the act," he wrote.

A panel tapped to investigate the causes of the explosion last fall produced a report that highlighted a history of lax regulations, the Examiner reported. Herrera's lawsuit would force such regulators to abide by the 1968 federal Pipeline Safety Act, which requires agencies to heed a level of safety standards. "The public is at risk because the mandates of federal law have not been followed by PG&E or enforced" by regulators, Herrera said in his letter. The San Francisco Chronicle broke a story last year revealing that California conducted fewer pipeline inspections than any other state.

In an interview with KQED Friday, Herrera discussed his "tremendous concern" about three gas transmission lines that run through populous areas in San Francisco. "We don't ever want to see a repeat of what happened in San Bruno," he told KQED. "And when you look at that there are three similiar transmission lines of similar vintage and that we don't have accurate record-keeping available to us with respect to what the condition is of those lines, and they run by hospitals, schools, under freeways ... it's my obligation as the chief legal officer of the City and County of San Francisco to make sure that laws are being faithfully adhered to."

According to SFGate, federal and state agencies would not comment beyond the fact that they were in the process of reviewing the letter. The regulators have 60 days to respond before the city can officially file suit.