Wednesday Must Read: PG&E Ignored Chance to Lessen Disaster; Jerry Brown Launches Attack Ads


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Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. PG&E knew more than a decade ago that automatic shut-off valves on natural gas pipelines could lessen potential disasters, yet chose not to install them. The Chron reports that because PG&E was still using manual shut-off valves, it took workers nearly two hours to turn off the gas that fed the deadly San Bruno firestorm. Federal officials said remotely controlled automatic valves, by contrast, can shut off gas lines in about ten minutes. San Bruno fire officials said some of the damage from the fire potentially could have lessened if the gas were turned off earlier. It’s not clear why PG&E chose not to install the valves, but in a 1999 report to federal transportation officials, the utility acknowledged that automatic valves are better than manual ones. State lawmakers say they will introduce legislation that will require automatic valves on all gas-lines.

2. PG&E, meanwhile, said it will not consider the San Bruno blast as part of a proposal to force ratepayers to finance all costs from pipeline explosions not covered by insurance, the Chron adds. The utility told the California Public Utilities Commission yesterday that it believes its $992 million insurance policy will cover its losses. However, the utility left open the possibility that ratepayers may still be on the hook under existing PUC rules.

3. Jerry Brown finally launched a TV ad assault on Meg Whitman yesterday, likening her to Pinocchio and accusing her of lying about his record, the Chron reports. Brown is angry about Whitman’s decision to keep airing ads that feature Bill Clinton saying in a 1992 presidential debate that Brown had raised taxes during his first two terms as governor. Clinton has since recanted that claim because it was based at the time on an inaccurate news story by CNN, which also has disavowed the old report. Clinton also endorsed Brown yesterday, after the attorney general apologized for making a joke about the Monica Lewinsky affair over the weekend. Whitman’s campaign says it has no plans to pull the Clinton-Brown ads.

4. UC Berkeley grad Sarah Shourd, held for more than a year in Iran on spy charges, was released yesterday following a disclosure that she has a lump in her breast and precancerous cervical cells. However, Iran has no plans to release the other two Cal grads who were hiking with Shourd near the Iran border when captured. The three hikers, including Shourd, all deny that they were spies as does the US government.

5. Poor-performing charter schools may be shut down by the state under new regulations being considered by California Board of Education, reports. Currently, the state has no mechanism for closing failing charter schools.

6. Lawyers for Yusuf Bey IV, the former leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, argued in court yesterday that his trial for the murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey should be moved out of the Bay Area, the CoCo Times reports.

7. Proposition 14, the open-primary law approved by voters in the June election, was upheld yesterday by a superior court judge, who ruled that it does not violate the state’s constitution, the Chron reports. Prop 14 changes the rules in state elections by allowing only the top two vote-getters in a primary, regardless of political party, to move onto the general election. Opponents likely will appeal the judge’s ruling.

8. California is in for a long, slow recovery because consumers are wary about spending money and businesses are unsure about hiring workers, the Chron reports, citing a new UCLA forecast.

9. Pollution-belching diesel trucks cause about 9,000 people a year to die prematurely, reports, citing a new study from the California Air Resources Board. Diesel-spewing trucks have long been an environmental-health problem in Oakland.

10. And it's Great White Shark season off the Central and Northern California Coast. The Chron reports that the history of shark attacks in the area shows that Great Whites migrate here in late summer and stay through the end of the fall season.