Judges: PG&E Improperly Declared 2 Natural-Gas Pipelines Safe

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Areas
    File image of 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

    Pacific Gas and Electric Co. could be fined for improperly declaring two natural-gas pipelines safe and using misleading filings to minimize the problem, state utilities regulators said.

    Two California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judges said that PG&E characterized substantial record keeping errors regarding two San Francisco Bay area pipelines as a routine problem, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

    The pipelines in question are in the same regional system as the one that exploded a 2010, a blast that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno.

    Poor record keeping was cited as a major factor in that incident, and the company currently faces up to $2 billion in fines for the San Bruno explosion.

    Karen Clopton and Maribeth Bushey, the commission judges, said PG&E workers last fall found that a pipeline in San Carlos was of lesser quality than company records had indicated.

    The company also discovered that it had been running a different pipeline in Millbrae at too high a pressure because of reliance on improper past testing.

    The judges said PG&E minimized these serious lapses as data "errata'' in a filing made on the day before the Fourth of July holiday, in a manner that "could be seen as an attempt to mislead the commission and the public on the significance of this new information.''

    PG&E denied that it misled regulators, and said the pipelines at issue are safe.

    Also, PG&E first approached utilities commission staffers about the record-keeping problems in February, Greg Snapper, a company spokesman, told the newspaper.

    The judges are considering hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for the errors.