PG&E gets poor marks in natural gas safety report

According to a scathing report commissioned by the California Public Utilities Commission that was released Thursday, PG&E continues to violate many laws related to the safety of its natural gas system.

KTVU read the report and got reactions form PG&E and the state Senator representing San Bruno, site if the 2010 explosion and fire that killed eight and devastated the neighborhood.

More than five years after the deadly explosion, San Bruno's Crestmoor neighborhood still bears the scars of that disaster. Since then, PG&E says it's spent billions upgrading its vast delivery system for natural gas.

"Every day we're making progress to modernize our system and records and transforming this hundred plus year old company," says PG&E spokesman Nick Stimmel.

But the new report, done for the CPUC by an independent risk management firm, says PG&E still hasn't computerized all is records and maps showing the exact location, type and condition of its pipelines.

"We've implemented significant improvements to enhance and digitize records associated with 6,750 miles of transmission pipelines and ore than 40,000 miles of distribution pipelines," sid PG&E's Stimmel.

The report also says PG&E has failed to restrict the maximum operating pressure on smaller distribution pipes that feed towns and neighborhoods. State Senator Jerry Hill, who represents San Bruno, told KTVU he's not surprised.

"So, what it says to me is that they haven't changed," said Senator Hill. "They're still trying to do it their way rather than the legal way and the regulatory way."

Other violations include failing to consider how what's learned from one incident can be used to prevent others and failure to  properly mark the location of pipe when a third party needs to dig in the area.

"Our employees in the field are empowered to stop the work if what they find in the ground does not match the records," countered Stimmel.

There was one important silver lining to the report. 

"The report mentions that the majority of the process associated with the report at PG&E have been identified as best practices," said Stimmel. But Senator Hill says silver linings don't make safe pipelines. 

"They may be too large to succeed. And when you look at these problems that keep occurring -- and they're the same problems -- they may not be able to correct those," said Hill. "And it may be time to split them apart, create one gas division, one electric division or let's move to a public utility."            

Though the rebuilding of the Crestmoor neighborhood has taken many years, considering today's report, the rebuilding of trust will take a lot longer.

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