Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) said Wednesday it is cooperating with federal and state investigators a week after a tragic Christmas Eve residential distribution pipeline explosion that killed one person and critically injured two others while destroying a home and badly damaging two others in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, CA. Local news media coverage quoted officials as criticizing the San Francisco-based utility for not being forthcoming with all of its records related to the hours leading up to the blast.
The news media accounts question what PG&E’s response was to alleged complaints from residents in the residential area where the blast occurred about the smell of gas more than four hours before the incident that killed a 72-year-old man and injured his daughter and granddaughter. The utility is precluded by federal law from making any public statements about its activities while the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation is ongoing, a PG&E spokesperson told NGI Wednesday.
Generally when the utility receives multiple calls reporting a gas odor in an area it dispatches service crews to the area to investigate, said the PG&E spokesperson; however, he would not say in this instance whether service people were sent to the residential area now under investigation.
Expressing sympathy for the death and injuries and the extensive residential property damage, PG&E COO Jack Keenan said the “community deserves answers” and at the same time, “it is important that all the facts be known, and our highest priority is supporting investigators in their efforts to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the search for information.”
PG&E’s spokesperson confirmed that the federal NTSB has the lead in the investigation anytime there is a pipeline incident causing a fatality. Parallel investigations are also being conducted by the California Public Utilities Commission and the PG&E utility.
“We understand the frustration of those wanting more details on the cause of this terrible accident,” Keenan said. “However, the investigation has just begun and no one has the answers yet. As information is developed, we’re committed to sharing it as soon as it is known and the NTSB gives the go-ahead to do so.”
Keenan pledged that PG&E will “do the right thing” when it comes to the people and property that were directly hurt and the larger community of Rancho Cordova, a multi-ethnic suburb of 61,000 residents northeast of the capital.
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