Friday, December 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

PG&E to face regulators over fatal blast

By
March 16, 2011 |

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — State regulators were expected to decide as soon as Wednesday how they would sanction the California utility under fire for a deadly explosion on a natural gas pipeline, segments of which the company said it was missing key safety records.

Among the options that the California Public Utilities Commission could consider was whether to require Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to conduct expensive, time-consuming tests on its transmission lines, which run through some of the state’s most populated areas. It also has said levying fines was a possibility.

The Sept. 9 blast sparked a massive fireball that killed eight people and destroyed three dozen homes in San Bruno, a quiet suburb overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

Almost immediately after the explosion, regulators ordered PG&E to provide detailed safety updates, including information about how the utility was prioritizing work on high-risk lines during the next four years. After an exhaustive document search, which involved the company renting a hulking concert venue for employees to sift through mountains of paper records, PG&E announced Tuesday that it was missing 8 percent of key safety records required for its high-pressure pipelines.

PG&E spokesman Joe Molica also confirmed that the company could not find paperwork on pressure tests for some sections of Line 132 — the pipeline in the San Bruno explosion — but he did not immediately clarify in which cities those segments lay.

PG&E released its results after the massive search, which has spanned the past two weeks. Company engineers, estimators, mappers, information technology specialists and managers — as well as a number of outside contractors — went through more than 1.25 million individual gas transmission records hauled out from branch offices and storage facilities.

Overall, 10 percent of aging lines installed before 1961 were missing test records or other documents showing historical pressure levels, as were 3 percent of the lines laid from 1961 to 1970, PG&E found.

“While we have made good progress on our records validation, we are not satisfied with the results to date and will continue to search for and review our files for additional pressure test records and provide regular updates on our efforts,” utility president Chris Johns said in a statement.

He said the company planned to pressure-test or replace 150 miles of pipe that is either as old as the San Bruno line or has other similar characteristics. The work will be carried out across 24 pipelines, he said, including on a segment of the ruptured line.

The company also will carry out rigorous inspections on another 435 miles of pipe, in which robotic devices called “smart pigs” will travel through pipelines to search for corrosion, dents and other problems, he said.

Federal investigators have been questioning PG&E’s record-keeping since December, when the National Transportation Safety Board first revealed the company’s records about the 1956-era pipe were wrong.

The pipeline was riddled with seams, defects and inferior welds, although PG&E paperwork inaccurately identified the pipe as being seamless, which is considered safer.

In January, the state commission directed PG&E and other California utilities to produce records documenting the safety of all their lines.

State rules require pipeline operators to keep up-to-date records about pressure tests and to document any leaks to ensure the pipes don’t pose a risk to surrounding communities.

Consumer advocates said customers deserved to know more details about where the lines with no records were located, and whether the company had been operating them safely.

“Ninety-two percent sounds pretty good unless you happen to live over the 8 percent that they don’t have records for,” said Mark Toney, executive director of San Francisco-based The Utility Reform Network. “I think that people are going to be interested in knowing where that 8 percent is.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who represents the San Bruno area, said she was pleased at the advances since the explosion, but questioned PG&E’s reliance on documents detailing historical pressure levels. She said that would not necessarily identify improper welds or shoddy work on the pipes.

“If you’re just saying that you have five years of records showing what the pressure was over time, I don’t know whether that means the level is safe,” said Speier. “We now know that the San Bruno pipe was seamed, had a defective weld and probably other problems.”

The commission was likely to vote on the proposed decision requiring PG&E to send out more frequent safety updates next month.

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    UCD, UC team up to study effects of climate change

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Teens’ goal? Helping other soccer players around the world

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    There’s a plate for you at the Davis Holiday Meal

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Police seek suspect in hit-and-run collision

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Help sought in search for runaway Davis teen

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Feds release ‘framework’ to rate colleges

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Gunfire leads to DUI arrest

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Creative women share food, friendship

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Konditorei presents free holiday concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Welcome 2015 with Mumbo Gumbo at a gala bash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Luminaria display planned in West Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Blue Christmas service planned at Davis churches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Willett bench is a labor of love

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

     
    Author! Author! UCD hosts talks, Q and A on Asia-focused books

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Libraries will be closed around the holidays

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    See diving ducks at city wetlands tour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Downtown gift cards get a new perk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    A home for the holidays?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Nobel Prize winner will discuss research related to autism

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Traditional carols service is Saturday at St. Martin’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Explorit: Experience nano this spring

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Soup’s On will benefit NAMI-Yolo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Donate to STEAC at Original Steve’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Supplies collected for victims of abuse

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Grandmothers support group meets weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

     
    .

    Forum

    He needs them to pay up

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Cheers and Jeers: Have you ever seen the rain?

    By Our View | From Page: A14

    Defeating Ebola involves medicine, and prayers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14 | Gallery

     
    Kudos to Central Park Gardens donors and volunteers

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A14

     
    .

    Sports

    Cousins is back in lineup but Kings fall

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devil boys hold off scrappy Rio Linda

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Lady Blue Devils rout an undefeated Liberty squad

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    UCD RB coach Wright heads to Florida; what next?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Aggies nab junior college defensive lineman

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Nostra-Dunning makes his college bowl picks

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

    Tennyson’s first goal is the difference in Sharks win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    Name droppers: Trio elected to academy of inventors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Arts

    DMTC announces auditions for ‘Sweeney Todd’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
    ‘Before Midnight’ screening is tonight

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
    DMTC plans New Year’s Eve party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

    Tom Rigney and Flambeau to play

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
     
    .

    Business

    After 19 years, Alfa Romeo returns

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: A16

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Comics