Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) has asked California regulators to reject a proposed list of penalties by the state safety staff for the utility’s shortcomings prior to the San Bruno, CA, pipeline explosion.

PG&E earlier this month accused the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) of piling on multiple violations and penalties and said it objected to “layering” violations and counting multiple “violations days” to calculate proposed fines. In addition, the utility alleged that in some cases CPSD had not adequately proven the violations were committed (see Daily GPI, Dec. 6).

However, PG&E noted that it “does not dispute the majority of the facts” in the case, which would be decided by CPUC. PG&E reiterated that it agrees its “procedures were not consistently followed,” and as a result its records have shown that about 140 miles of the 5,767-mile system (about 2.4%) were erroneously designated as lower class locations than they should have been. In addition, at least nine miles (0.2%) had the wrong maximum allowable operating pressures (MAOP).

“PG&E does not dispute that a reasonable penalty is appropriate but the issue of penalties will be [considered and argued] separately,” based on a Sept. 25 ruling by a CPUC administrative law judge. CPSD has double- and triple-counted alleged violations, PG&E said. The numbers generated a “grossly exaggerated number of alleged violations…

“This is akin to counting each kilowatt-hour for a residential customer improperly billed on a commercial rate schedule as a separate tariff violation when the ‘violation’ is that the customer was placed on the wrong rate,” PG&E said.

The utility also defended its use of a “conservative” standard for measuring the strength of the pipe in its transmission system, apply a “specified minimum yield strength (SMYS) value greater than 24,000 psi.”

In its final report last year on the San Bruno incident, the National Transportation Safety Board was critical of both PG&E and CPUC oversight, and it made a number of recommendations related to MAOP and SMYS standards (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31, 2011).

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