Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) plans to expand its natural gas work force by 1,400 positions and centralize overall control of its nearly 50,000 miles of transmission and distribution pipelines by 2015, according to a 45-page plan the San Francisco-based combination utility filed Friday with state regulators.

Separate from a $2.2 billion pipeline enhancement plan now being reviewed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the Gas Safety Plan was submitted in response to a state law signed last October by Gov. Jerry Brown requiring the state's gas system operators to make periodic reports on the status of their gas safety actions.

PG&E said the safety plan highlights "current and committed work and connects the dots" on the utility's ongoing efforts to ensure a safe and reliable gas system, following the fatal rupture and explosion of one of its transmission pipelines nearly two years ago in San Bruno, CA.

Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's executive vice president running the gas operations, called the filing a "roadmap to becoming one of the nation's safety gas utilities," noting that the document represents input from all levels of the giant utility's gas organization and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which last month outlined a dozen recommendations (see Daily GPI, June 25).

PG&E's latest plan focuses on four areas:

The plan recognizes it will take time for the utility to achieve its vision of becoming an industry leader in gas safety and reliability, a PG&E spokesperson said. Training is slated to take from now to 2015, and the hiring of 1,400 additional gas workers will take through 2014, the plan stated.

State and federal regulators, as well as citizen stakeholders, have been unsparing in their criticism of PG&E's gas system operations, as well as in the self-reported violations that PG&E divulged to the CPUC this year (see NGI, March 21, 2011).

Stavropoulos said PG&E has made "monumental progress" since the San Bruno tragedy. He said the utility has shown it "knows how to get things done; our [new] gas safety plan proves we know what more we need to do."

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