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Gas explosion comes amid line shutoff debate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Regulators have debated requiring automatic or remote shut-off valves on natural gas pipelines long before the explosion that leveled homes and melted a West Virginia interstate.

Federal investigators say it took Columbia Gas Transmission more than an hour to manually shut off the gas that fueled Tuesday's massive inferno near Charleston. An investigation is under way.

The agency investigating the blast - the National Transportation Safety Board - has long advocated requiring valves that could shut off gas within minutes.

A law signed this year by President Barack Obama signaled support for the automatic valves, but it remains uncertain whether the final regulations will target only new lines or include 2.6 million miles of existing pipelines.


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