San Bruno pipeline had prior leak

  • U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, speaks at a media briefing in front of where a ruptured gas line caused a deadly pipeline explosion nearly nine months ago, in San Bruno, Calif., Wednesday, June 8, 2011. Officials are still probing the cause of the explosion, which engulfed a San Bruno neighborhood and killed eight people, injured dozens, and destroyed 38 homes. (AP Photo/Darryl Bush)

SAN BRUNO — Nearly nine months after federal investigators began probing a deadly pipeline explosion near San Francisco, a California utility quietly revealed its ruptured line had sprung a gas leak in a spot only few miles away years before, a top safety official revealed Wednesday.

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Deborah Hersman called Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s recent disclosure of its leak in 1988 "troubling," as she announced three new safety recommendations at a news conference a few feet from the gaping crater left by the San Bruno blast.

"If it took them months to realize they had a leak on the same line just nine miles south of the rupture site and only now we're hearing about it, that's very troubling," Hersman said. "What we're concerned about is the process that prevented them from providing this to us sooner."

PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said staff members only recently turned up the documents revealing the prior leak in a satellite office and told federal investigators soon thereafter.

"We provided all the available documents we had to them, and we are still investigating and researching our records," Swanson said. "We've acknowledged several times since the tragedy that our operations and record-keeping practices aren't where they should be."

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