Yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board issued its report on the natural-gas pipeline explosion that killed 8 in San Bruno, California on September 9, 2010. The NTSB stated that the accident was caused by defective materials and welding when the line was built...back in 1956. It further found that the owner of the line, the utility PG&E, had not inspected the line appropriately and that state regulators had failed to provide strong oversight.
In sum, this is a case of infrastructure failure caused by shoddy, original work, poor maintenance and inspection, aging pipe, and lax regulation.
Fatal accidents at large pipelines are rising, with 9 deaths in 2008, 13 in 2009, and 22 in 2010, according to the NTSB. This trend must be reversed and that means more investment in replacing old lines, more investment in testing and maintaining lines, and stronger regulatory oversight. This trend is also another data point documenting the enormous under-investment in all kinds of infrastructure in America.