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PG&E Fined $200,000 For Improperly Trained Contract Pipeline Inspectors

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Tuesday fined Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) $200,000 for allegedly failing to properly train contractors who are conducting pipeline inspection programs.

CPUC alleges that PG&E violated federal rules by failing to ensure that its contractors were properly trained/qualified for work locating pipelines for clearance from proposed nearby work. Regulators gave the San Francisco-based combination utility until April 8 to respond to the citation.

The "proximity clearance" work was contracted to a third-party by PG&E, and the contracting firm provided some training to its crew members, according to the citation.

"The training does not appear to meet the 'operator qualification [OQ]' requirements,” CPUC said.

A PG&E spokesperson on Thursday said the company addressed the issue "as soon as we learned about it, and [we're] revising processes to make sure that anyone doing this type of work on PG&E's behalf is appropriately qualified."

According to regulators, PG&E has the responsibility to ensure the quality of training of all personnel performing the OQ work. The work was said to have taken place at various times between 2011 and April 21, 2015. Cross-bore inspection work ongoing by the utility is part of its overall distribution system integrity management program.

While the violations were systemwide, the CPUC said they "did not create significant hazardous conditions" since the utility did not accept the inspections from the contractor as complete. Regulators also said PG&E was cooperative and has begun corrective actions.

Since the pipeline rupture and explosion in San Bruno, CA, in 2010, PG&E has been assessed fines by various regulatory agencies that total more than $1 billion (see Daily GPIApril 9, 2015). The utility also has admitted inappropriate contacts with CPUC staff over a recent five-year period (see Daily GPISept. 16, 2014). The initial fallout cost the jobs of three PG&E executives and a top aide to the state's chief regulator at the time, Michael Peevey, who is still being investigated.

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