PG&E Fined $1.27M for Corrosion Remediation
The California Public Utilities Commission recently issued a citation against Pacific Gas and Electric Company for failing to correct problems with systems used to prevent corrosion in natural gas infrastructure. The $1.27 million fine is in response to PG&E's failure to remediate 127 pipeline locations with inadequate cathodic protection.
According to CPUC’s release, the citation was issued after an investigation was completed by its Safety and Enforcement Division, determining that PG&E violated Title 49 CFR §192.465(d). The violation presented “unacceptable risk to safe operations prior to corrective action.”
“CP is a time-dependent threat. Over time, low or inadequate CP can cause corrosion, pipe wall loss, and/or pipeline failure,” stated the citation. “PG&E’s long duration of non-compliance of minimum CP requirements will likely impact the safety and reliability of its natural gas service.”
The commission reports that of the 311 violations the company failed to remediate within 15 months to the date the CP was found below adequate levels of protection, a citation was issued for the most long-standing violations. The 127 pipeline locations exceeded 24 months of remedial action, with a fine of $10,000 per CP violation.
The California Public Utilities Commission has ordered PG&E to pay a $1.27 million fine for failure to prompt fix safety issues with its natural gas pipelines: https://t.co/ybt78R7dgk— Sammy Roth (@Sammy_Roth) June 27, 2022
Per the CPUC, PG&E shareholders have 30 days to pay the fine to the state’s general fund and make corrective actions or request a hearing.
Other PG&E Citations
The CPUC notes in its announcement that this most recent violation and the latest of many actions it has taken against PG&E for accountability and safety. The utility has also been embroiled in numerous lawsuits, enforcement actions and dozens of fines since its San Bruno pipeline exploded in September 2010, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.
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 2015, PG&E faced a $530,000 fine from CPUC regarding allegations that included missed federal deadlines for safety plans, failure to properly inspect pipelines and use of incomplete plans to detect corrosion. However, that fine was later dropped by the CPUC 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.
In 2019, it was alleged that the company continued to commit pipeline safety violations by falsifying data related to marking pipelines. An investigation into the utility company was launched as a result of the accusations.
Most recently, in 2021, PG&E reached a settlement agreement, involving the payment of $5.9 million to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The settlement arrived as a resolution for PG&E’s alleged violations involving the company’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from discharges of once-through cooling water into the Pacific Ocean from its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.