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Hearing on Gas Explosion Begins in DC

Earlier this month in Washington, D.C., the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a three-day hearing exploring the September 9 natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California. The blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. The hearing reflects the growing concern about the stability of gas pipelines in the United States. Just last month, a gas pipeline explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania, killed five people.

Other than the San Bruno explosion, the NTSB is also examining gas pipeline accidents in Illinois, Michigan, Texas and Florida. It is searching for common themes that might warrant safety recommendations in the gas pipeline industry. The NTSB currently has only four full-time pipeline investigators. The NTSB itself lacks enforcement power, but regulatory authorities usually adopt its recommendations.

The NTSB chairperson said the hearing’s purpose is not to assign blame for the San Bruno disaster. Instead, officials will provide an account of the accident and testify about their oversight of the San Bruno pipeline. A spokesperson for Pipeline Safety Trust, a non-profit group in Bellingham, Washington, hopes the hearing addresses whether San Bruno plant officials did enough to educate residents and firefighters about the pipeline operations.

Many people in the blast area did not even know there was a gas pipeline in the neighborhood. The hearing will also cover public awareness of gas pipeline issues, regulatory oversight of pipelines and pipeline technology.

This is only the second NTSB hearing involving gas pipelines since 1997. A 2000 hearing addressed the pipeline disasters in Bellingham, Washington and Carlsbad, New Mexico, that killed three people and 12 people, respectively.

Explosions of any kind can cause extreme pain, suffering and even death. Contact a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney for help in recovering compensation for your injuries. David Schloss is an experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot and is prepared to offer a free consultation.