Merced can breathe easier about gas lines.
That diagnosis comes from both city and PG&E officials.
Stan Murdock, director of Public Works operations, said the department's role in a gas leak would be to provide support and services in the form of barricades or backhoes to the fire department and police.
"We would not be out there doing things like digging because we are not going to dig around the gas line," he said. "We would be providing with the support more in the area of providing barricades and vehicles if they need to haul something."
The brunt of taking care of a gas leak would fall under PG&E jurisdiction if one did occur in Merced, according to Fire Chief Ken Mitten.
Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for legislation, the Strengthening Pipeline Safety and Enforcement Act of 2010, to strengthen oversight of the nation's pipelines and increase penalties for violations of safety regulations Wednesday.
This comes after the San Bruno gas explosion that occurred on Sept. 9, setting a wave of panic across California communities questioning their own gas lines. To date, the explosion killed a total of seven people.
Murdock said the fire department would be in charge of those types of emergencies within city limits.
Mitten said the city would unify command of police, fire and public works and get the support agencies involved in the situation. "We have had gas leaks quite frequently," he said, but on a small scale. "The most immediate problem is quite frequently a contractor digging into a pipeline and that brings out immediate response," he said.
This week, PG&E released a top 100 at-risk pipelines list to the California Public Utilities Commission. The pipelines have the potential to cause third-party damage -- such as in a construction area -- corrosion and potential for ground movement, meaning proximity to seismically active areas and the potential for soil erosion around the pipeline.
Jeff Smith, PG&E spokesman, said the list includes work that needs to be done on pipelines. "The Top 100 list is a list of priorities for our engineers as they analyze potential future work on our transmission pipelines," he said. "It's addressed right away."
He stressed that the company doesn't delay that process.
The various pipelines don't pose an immediate safety risk "but it's on the list that we monitor as our top level priorities."
He added there is always going to be a priority list.
For example, certain pipes were put on that list because they may be located in an area of high construction so there could be a risk of a construction crew in the area coming in contact with the line. "In Merced and in all communities, we are rigorously monitoring our pipelines anywhere they are," he said.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.