PG&E Allegedly Falsified Gas Pipeline Records


Regulators have recently alleged that in the years following the deadly 2010 San Bruno, California, pipeline explosion, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company continued to commit pipeline safety violations by falsifying data related to marking pipelines.

A new investigation into the utility company has been launched as a result of these accusations.

San Bruno Fire

On Sept. 9, 2010, a segment of PG&E's 30-inch gas transmission line exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people, injuring 58, destroying 38 homes and damaging another 70. Investigations into the explosion, PG&E's recordkeeping practices and the company's pipeline classification related to higher density populations "have brought to light the characteristics and consequences of PG&E's longstanding failure to heed federal and state regulations governing the safe operation of natural gas transmission pipelines throughout its system," the California Public Utilities Commission said.

Combined with the disallowances already adopted prior to the CPUC decision, PG&E's penalties and remedies exceeded $2.2 billion. According to the CPUC, PG&E committed 2,425 violations over a number of decades for a total of 18,447,803 days in violation. In some cases, the violations lasted for nearly 60 years.

PG&E shelled out a $70 million municipal restitution package in March 2012, in addition to an earlier commitment to fund replacement and repair of the city's infrastructure and other costs related to the accident and restoration of the neighborhood.

In July 2014, a San Francisco-based grand jury announced a criminal indictment charging the utility with obstructing the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the blast and additional violations of the National Gas Pipeline Safety Act. The indictment carried potential fines of over $1.1 billion.

In January 2015, the CPUC dropped a $530,000 fine for three violations of specific federal requirements to manage system integrity and two violations related to a gap in the company's operator qualification procedures.

Recent Allegations

A CPUC staff investigation recently revealed that PG&E had violated measures related to locating and marking natural gas pipelines; these measures are in place so that other parties don’t accidentally damage these pipelines during construction work and other projects.

PG&E reportedly did not have enough employees dedicated to marking and location work, and with utility company supervisors also dealing with pressure, data was falsified so that requests for pipeline location “would not appear as late.”

The violations occurred from 2012 to 2017, according to the CPUC.

“This Commission would expect that after such a tragedy, caused by multiple proven violations of law, PG&E would have sought to vigorously enhance and increase its effectiveness in all aspects of its gas safety,” the commission said.

PG&E has also come forward, claiming a commitment “to accurate and thorough reporting and recordkeeping, and we didn’t live up to that commitment in this case.” The utility company also said that it has hired more employees dedicated to pipeline recordkeeping, along with improving training options and updating its audit protocol.




Tagged categories: Government; Health & Safety; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Regulations; Utilities

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