Federal regulators Monday issued their final report and recommendations on the deadly Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) natural gas transmission pipeline rupture and explosion in San Bruno, CA, a year ago. The 140-page document goes into more detail about what led up to the conclusions and recommendations released at the end of last month (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31).
PG&E responded by attempting to assure stakeholders and the general public that it is implementing all of the recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and it is committed to "learn from San Bruno" and to share those lessons with the natural gas industry.
President Christopher Johns said the San Francisco-based combination utility is "implementing NTSB recommendations as part of a larger effort, both immediate and long term, to promote safer pipeline operations. PG&E will continue making fundamental changes to its operations to assure the safety of the public, our customers and our employees always comes first."
Unsparing in its criticism, NTSB's final report reiterated the board conclusion from Aug. 30 that the probable cause was a combination of "inadequate quality assurance and quality control" in 1956 when the failed part of PG&E's Line 132 was relocated, and a failed pipeline integrity management program. Along with the utility's poor pipeline management, the federal board also singled out the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for criticism of its oversight of PG&E.
In listing more than two dozen recommendations, the final report reiterates needed changes among the federal and state regulators, in addition to the utility and the governor of California. In that regard the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has its share of follow-up work to do in the wake of San Bruno, which killed eight people, destroyed 34 homes and damaged another 70.
NTSB has now officially provided its guiding document for the U.S. Transportation Department, PHMSA, California's governor, CPUC and PG&E, along with the two leading natural gas trade associations -- the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and the American Gas Association.
Currently industry estimates call for a surge of investment of billions of dollars in natural gas pipeline infrastructure throughout North America. And some federal officials have indicated that the cooperative and coordinated work between the gas and the electric industries needs to step up.
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