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Panel suspends pipeline hearings to hold talks

SAN FRANCISCO -- A California judge has approved a request to suspend public hearings and hold closed-door negotiations on fines to be levied after a deadly natural gas pipeline explosion in a Northern California neighborhood.

The California Public Utilities Commission had been holding public hearings over the blast that killed eight people, injured others and destroyed dozens of homes in the bedroom community of San Bruno.

Friday, the commission's Consumer Protection and Safety Division filed a motion seeking a month-long suspension of public hearings over penalties to be levied against the pipeline's owner, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The CPUC administrative judge decided Monday to put the hearings on hold until Oct. 15. Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane had urged the judge to continue open hearings over the Sept. 9, 2010, blast.

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Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com