PG&E Knows What's Not in Pipeline Documents, But What Is?

By Chris Roberts
|  Thursday, Jun 23, 2011  |  Updated 6:05 PM PDT
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PG&E Knows What's Not in Pipeline Documents, But What Is?

NTSB

PG&E knows some of what it forgot -- the utility was told 20 years ago that its record-keeping was so shoddy that information about welds on its natural gas pipelines, like the one that blew up in San Bruno in September, killing eight people, was likely lost forever.

But what's in the 225,000 pages of records and other documents the utility did keep?

Take a peek and let us know.

PG&E was losing track of its pipeline records two decades ago, according to a memo written in the early 1990s by a records-keeping manager released to the San Francisco Chronicle. That's partially why the pipeline that exploded in San Bruno on Sept. 9 was listed in records as a seamless pipe, when in fact it had an incomplete seam weld.

Just how many other pipes with bad welds, no welds or good welds are out there remains to be seen. It could be in the literal ream of paper PG&E handed over to the California Public Utilities Commission on Monday -- 225,000 sheets of paper, which is "just a small fraction" of paperwork reviewed by PG&E prior to handing it over to CPUC regulators, according to a company spokesman.

Will anyone actually read the paperwork to find out? Maybe not, reports the San Francisco Examiner, which notes that the CPUC might not have the manpower to sift through the dead trees to find vital, potentially life-saving pipeline paperwork.

The agency was under deadline to provide any documentation it could find pertaining to pipeline welds by Monday.

A pressure spike in Milpitas led to the bad weld in San Bruno rupturing. The ensuing white-hot fireball burned for hours, killing eight people and destroying nearly 40 homes.

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