Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) officials have hit back at the numbers and types of violations of natural gas pipeline survey and classification work that an investigative unit of the California regulatory commission has leveled against the combination utility.
While its implementation prior to the San Bruno, CA, natural gas transmission pipeline rupture and explosion two years ago “did not work as intended,” PG&E argued in a filing last month that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) should view those missteps as “a single course of conduct; not the millions of days of individual violations counted” by the regulator’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD).
Reply brief filings by PG&E are due to the CPUC Thursday. This is one of three major enforcement cases ongoing in the wake of the San Bruno tragedy (see Daily GPI, Nov. 5). CPSD has alleged as many as 133 violations by PG&E that date back decades in some cases (1.19 million days) based on the numbers of pipeline segments that have been increased in class designation since the San Bruno incident and the utility’s efforts to get its pipeline safety and maintenance system under control. CPUC safety staff allege that PG&E had a “complete breakdown” in its pipeline surveying and classification work.
The utility has argued that it had the correct procedures in place, but “unfortunately the links among the patrol, class location and continuing surveillance procedures — as well as implementation and training — did not work as intended.” PG&E acknowledged that it did not maintain a complete, up-to-date class location for 100% of its gas transmission pipeline system.
The breakdown is the heart of the issue and should be the focus of violations — not a long list of pipeline segments that were inaccurately classified, PG&E said in its brief to the CPUC.
“Quantifying alleged violations by segment and ‘layering’ on different violations is inappropriate,” it stated. PG&E maintained that since the San Bruno pipeline explosion it has taken a number steps to get its gas utility system “on the right path” (see Daily GPI, Nov. 20).
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