California regulators on Thursday ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) to implement improvement in its safety culture and operations based on recommendations from an independent consultant.
The recommendations are part of the ongoing investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) of the San Francisco-based combination utility's organizational culture and governance, which has been called into question with safety lapses in recent wildfires and other natural gas and electric system incidents since the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.
"Sadly, the events of San Bruno continue to echo today," said CPUC President Michael Picker. "Evidence shows that, although there are a few bright spots, PG&E appears not to have a clear vision for safety programs, and instead pursues many programs without thought of how they fit together."
Recommendations from the CPUC's Safety and Enforcement Division and the NorthStar Consulting Group include developing a comprehensive safety strategy that specifies timelines/deliverables, resource requirements/budgets, personnel qualifications, definitions of roles/responsibilities, action plans and metrics to assess effectiveness.
Commissioner Liane Randolph said achieving "a genuine safety culture" at the utility is "paramount," and she remains committed "to continue looking seriously at structural issues and the CPUC's regulation of the company."
Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen said the latest assessment is "one step in an ongoing process of improvement" for PG&E, and expects the process can "produce similar results for other electric utilities in the state."
A PG&E spokesperson said safety is the utility's highest priority. "All of our 23,000 employees come to work every day with the goal of delivering safe electric and gas service to customers. While the full scope of a new phase in the CPUC's safety culture proceeding hasn't been communicated yet, PG&E welcomes any opportunity to receive feedback from our regulators as we strive to continuously improve.
"Wildfires are spreading at rates we've never seen before, and we must work together across all sectors and disciplines to address this issue with urgency.”