Private firm to investigate Fresno gas blast

Apr 20, 2015

PG&E has hired an engineering firm to investigate Friday’s pipeline explosion in Fresno.  Twelve people were injured when a construction crew struck the pipeline with a front loader, causing a massive explosion.  Michael Cabanatuan has the story at SFGate:


“Engineers from Exponent, a consulting firm known for its work in analyzing failures, have been sent to the site of Friday’s fiery explosion in northwest Fresno to conduct a metallurgical analysis of what remains of the pipeline. They’ll join county officials and investigators from the California Public Utilities Commission and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in trying to figure out how and why the explosion happened…


“Among the issues investigators will consider are whether construction crews building berms on the site — used by the Sheriff’s Department as a firing range — had significantly altered the site by scraping away feet of dirt covering the pipeline.”


KQED’s Marissa Lagos has a fascinating look at the connection between committee chairmanships and fundraising, with Maplight helping to provide analysis of the data.


“…Banking and Finance, along with Governmental Organization, Insurance, Appropriations, Health, Utilities and Commerce and Business and Professions are typically seen as the most powerful committees in the Assembly because they oversee legislation that impacts the state’s most influential — and monied — industries and interests….


“Over their time in office, the current chairs of those eight committees raised nearly $20 million combined — on average, $847,000 more each than the rest of Democrats in the Assembly…


“The average amount “juice” chairs gave away was $435,116 during their time in office, nearly twice as much as the rest of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, whose members contributed an average of $239,627….


“All of the chairs managed to dramatically increase their annual fundraising after being elected — some, including Health chair Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Insurance chair Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, doubled their fundraising between their first and second terms.”


The State Water Resources Control Board has modified proposed regulations in response to feedback from the public and other interests.  Short version: yes, we’ll still need to cut use by 25%. 


Matt Stevens, LAT:  “The board received more than 250 letters weighing in on how best to implement Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory 25% statewide water-use cut…


“Under the newest regulations, the board proposed grouping water districts into nine tiers. A very small number of agencies could individually apply to be in the first tier, which requires only a 4% cut in water use. But most of the state’s water agencies will be required to cut usage between 8% and 36%...


“The change ‘lessens the disparities in reduction requirements between agencies that have similar levels of water consumption,’ the regulators said.”


Speaking of water use, Senator Lois Wolk (D- Davis,) has proposed legislation mandating water meters for each individual apartment in new construction of multi-family housing units.  Similar bills have failed before – will the drought make the difference?  From Amy Quinton at Capital Public Radio:


“’The most efficient way of gaining conservation is a price mechanism,’ says Wolk. ‘When people see what they use, and if it’s too much, they’ll cut back.’


Debra Carlton with the California Apartment Association supports the idea of submeters. She says making sure water is conserved is just as difficult for property owners.


“’You can ask a tenant all day long to conserve, but they actually don’t know what they should be doing, or even if what they are doing is beneficial if they don’t receive a bill,’ says Carlton.”


Lawmakers are proposing legislation to protect consumers who purchase cars from “Buy Here Pay Here” lenders.  Such sellers target low-income buyers with poor credit.   Nearly 25% of these loans end in default and repossession of the car.  From Marc Lifsher at the Los Angeles Times:


“Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) wants to limit immobilizing cars on short notice when a borrower misses a payment.


“Holden's bill, AB 265, would mandate a 10-day grace period before dealers can repossess a car with a "starter interruption device." Dealers would also have to provide a second warning notice 48 hours before the car is rendered inoperable.


"’Dealers often target the working poor and rely on repeated reselling of these high-priced vehicles to generate much of their revenue,’ Holden said. ‘AB 265 would provide added protection for these low-income purchasers ... by slowing down aggressive repossession of cars.’"


Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) is mulling a bid for Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat, with an official announcement expected within the next week.  Christopher Cadelago says the unscripted Orange County legislator would offer a striking contrast to the carefully-controlled campaign of front-runner Kamala Harris.


The Sacramento Bee: “Fred Smoller, an associate professor of political science at Chapman University, where Sanchez graduated and now teaches and serves on the board, said she is scrappy when she’s perceived as the underdog.


“’That’s exactly when she gets feisty,’ Smoller said. “‘I am the outsider … and I am representing people the establishment would ignore.’


“’She has that independent streak, the Loretta character where she isn’t undisciplined, but she also isn’t controlled,’ he added. ‘It’s part of her authenticity. There is little virtue in being something she’s not: stilted or scripted.’”


Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne spoke with California Republican Party Chair Jim Brulte about the challenges facing the GOP – and how to learn from what California did wrong.


“’California is the leading edge of the country’s demographic changes,’ Brulte said in an interview. ‘Frankly, Republicans in California did not react quickly enough to them, and we have paid a horrible price.’


“One measure of the cost: In the three presidential elections of the 1980s, California voted twice for Ronald Reagan and once for George H. W. Bush. The state has not gone Republican since..”


And, finally a story from New Zealand that reminds us of an old joke:  What’s worse than finding a cockroach in your hamburger? Finding half a cockroach.


“A Blenheim woman says she will never eat a Big Mac again after finding a cockroach in her burger.


Annah Sophia Stevenson, 26, had taken three bites of the burger before spotting the large insect.


"’I was working on it for about three or four seconds, I thought it was a bit of gristly meat,’ she said….


"’I was trying to squeeze my teeth through it - I was chewing on that thing for a while.’


“…She had yet to contact McDonald's in Blenheim, but did not want to be compensated with McDonald's food vouchers.


"’I'll never, ever eat another Big Mac as long as I live.’"