PG&E Wistleblower Alleges Safety Violation Cover-Up

By Jessica Greene
|  Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010  |  Updated 9:50 AM PDT
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San Bruno Aftermath: a Look Back

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In his suit, Mike Wiseman alleges a cover-up involving company leaders who knew about safety violations.

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As investigators dig for answers and try to figure out who's responsible for the deadly gas line explosion in San Bruno on Sept. 9, an employee of Pacific Gas and Electric is speaking out about safety practices at the company.

Mike Wiseman filed suit against PG&E three weeks ago -- well before the pipeline explosion leveled the Crestmoor neighborhood and killed at least four people. In his suit, Wiseman alleges a cover-up involving company leaders who knew about safety violations.

Wiseman is a transmission pipeline worker for PG&E but he been on paid leave for the past year and a half because of an incident in which, he says, supervisors harassed him after learning of his allegations. He has worked with PG&E for about 10 years, but he has never worked on the San Bruno pipeline. His suit stems from an incident in which he claims supervisors held him against his will at a Stockton hotel and threatened his job after learning of his allegations.

Wiseman claims supervisors at the utility giant often ignore safety rules and violations.

"One of the jokes of my department is, PG&E management puts the safety cap on during safety meetings and takes it off when we all hit the field." Wiseman said.

In one alleged incident, PG&E workers were sent into a ditch to repair a gas line but, he says, none of the workers had proper training. When he brought the incident to the attention of higher-ups, they retaliated, Wiseman claims.

The Los Altos man says he first took his concerns to supervisors and eventually worked his way up to the vice president of the company.

"The higher you go up the chain of command," Wseman said, "the bigger the money is, so the bigger the cover up is."

PG&E said in a statement in response to the claims that it has "absolutely no tolerance for retaliation against an employee who raises safety concerns" and that employees are expected to stop the work in progress and raise his or her concerns if there is an unsafe situation.

The state Public Utilities Commission ordered PG&E to inspect its entire natural gas pipeline system for leaks following the San Bruno explosion.

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