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New California Bill Aims To Prevent Pipeline Gas Leaks, Arvin Evacuations

May 5, 2015

Yesenia Lara stands outside her home on Nelson Court, one of the eight homes evacuated back in March because of a gas leak.
Credit Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Last year, several Kern County families were forced out of their homes for more than eight months because of a gas leak. Now, a bill in the California legislature would help prevent future cases like the one in Arvin. Fm89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

"They were mostly wondering about who's responsible, how come we weren't notified, and when we were notified why was it so late." - Rudy Salas, author of AB 1420.

The bill would require state regulators to prioritize the testing of oil-related pipelines running near schools or homes.

Assembly member Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, says he introduced the bill because of what happened in Arvin. In late March 2014, families were evacuated from eight homes after a toxic gas leak was discovered from a pipeline. Explosive levels of flammable gases were found inside the homes.

“Once that situation occurred I got a lot of calls and talked to some of the families affected and they were mostly wondering about who's responsible, how come we weren’t notified, and when we were notified why was it so late.”

After months of frustration Arvin residents found out that the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, was not responsible for testing the pipeline because it was less than 4 inches in diameter.

In this case, the bill would make DOGGR responsible for testing the pipeline. It would also require them to work with health officials and the pipeline’s owner to notify all residents of a leak if it poses “a serious threat to public health and safety.”

The bill is now in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.