Gov. Jerry Brown signed five bills to increase the safety of intrastate natural gas pipeline operations. \u201cThese bills protect California\u2019s communities by setting new standards for emergency preparedness, placing automatic shut-off valves in vulnerable areas and ensuring that gas companies pressure test transmission lines,\u201d Brown stated Oct. 7 The newly signed bills are: AB 56 by Assemblymember Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission to order shutoff valve installation on intrastate gas pipelines, and to develop an installation time frame. The measure also requires natural gas utilities to file pipe transmission and storage safety reports twice a year. Gas utilities must meet annually with local fire departments to discuss pipeline placements and blast contingency plans. It also allocates $900,000 for six new positions at the commission. SB 44 by Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) requires state regulators to establish emergency response standards. They are to be implemented by natural gas companies by July 1, 2012. SB 216 by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) authorizes state regulators to require installations of gas pipe shutoff valves in high population areas and seismically active regions. SB 705 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) directs the CPUC to require utilities to develop gas pipeline safety plans and for the commission to approve them by the end of 2012. Periodic plan reviews also are ordered. SB 879 by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) increases the cap on penalties the CPUC can levy for pipeline safety standards violations from $20,000\/offense to $50,000\/offense. Padilla\u2019s bill also requires balancing accounts for recovery of expenses related to gas safety. Balancing accounts hold money collected for future work based on estimated expenses. Once the work is performed, money is either returned to ratepayers if it winds up costing less than estimated, or more is collected to cover any shortage. Several other bills also became law before the Oct. 9 midnight signing deadline. They include: SB 454 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) gives the California Energy Commission enforcement power to act when building contractors violate applicable energy efficiency codes. It also allows utilities to issue energy efficiency rebates to cover work done by contractors only if the work is performed according to code and under a building permit. According to the senator, 90 percent of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning efficiency upgrades in buildings are done without requisite permits and are substandard. SB 489 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) expands the benefits of net metering beyond solar and wind projects to include other renewable units to make the program \u201ctechnology neutral.\u201d SB 618 by Wolk allows a local entity that has authorized the owner of agricultural land to reap tax benefits under the state\u2019s Williamson Act to continue to allow the tax breaks after the farm land becomes the site of photovoltaic projects. The Williamson Act seeks to protect agricultural lands from development. SB 679 by Pavley appropriates $25 million from the Energy Commission\u2019s Renewable Resource Trust Fund to the state Treasurer\u2019s California Alternative Energy & Advanced Transportation Financing Authority to support local public energy efficiency and renewable financing under what are known as Property Assessed Clean Energy programs. This state public financing program was overridden by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Federal interest in stymieing the financing programs stemmed from the fact that the county tax lien given in exchange for upfront financing becomes first in line in the event of a mortgage default. That puts the nearly insolvent federally-backed authorities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac later in line for repayment. SB 771 by Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) allows landfill and digester gas turbines and microturbines to qualify as renewable energy sources and reap financial assistance under the California Alternative Energy & Advanced Transportation Financing Authority. SB 790 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) requires the CPUC to establish a code of conduct by next March to ensure that a utility does not market against a community aggregator. When communities choose aggregation, utility customers in the area get the option to purchase their power from a local agency, which can produce it or buy it. Leno\u2019s measure allows community aggregators to use private utility ratepayer funds to administer energy efficiency programs. It also forbids utility customers from bearing the costs of customers who depart to community energy plans. SB 836 by Padilla mandates the CPUC reveal annually beginning Feb. 1, 2012, the cost of all electricity contracts between investor-owned utilities and renewable developers. The CPUC has kept the cost of such contracts confidential because of competition concerns. AB 631 by Assemblymember Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) puts into statute a CPUC ruling that exempts charging stations from commission regulation. AB 982 by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) seeks to consolidate public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management to increase land holdings suitable for solar energy developments. It directs the State Lands Commission to submit a proposed agreement with BLM to that end. AB 1314 by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) authorizes the California Energy Commission to speed up approvals for small projects or for minor changes to projects within its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle projects. It also gives the agency permission to adopt guidelines for implementing block grants. Vetoed bills included: AB 1055, prohibiting CPUC members from soliciting funds from people or businesses regulated by the agency. Brown stated he was vetoing Hill\u2019s bill because it was \u201can absolute ban on all employees that goes too far.\u201d AB 306, also nixed by the governor, sought to subsidize piezoelectricity. The bill by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) would have required the Energy Commission to launch a pilot project using piezoelectric technology to convert rush hour traffic road gyrations to kilowatt hours. The technology captures oscillating electrons created by vehicular pressure on roadways (Current, June 3, 2011).