Pipeline Test Records Missing Key Data in PG&E Case - NBC Bay Area

Pipeline Test Records Missing Key Data in PG&E Case



    Battle of the Bays: The Backstory You Need
    NBC Bay Area
    File image of PG&E's logo.

    Some of the pipeline test records that PG&E hoped would vindicate the company from federal pipeline safety charges actually are missing key data required by federal law to validate them, a company engineer acknowledged in the federal trial Thursday.

    PG&E turned over more than 4,600 pages to federal prosecutors this year before trial began on a dozen pipeline safety violations, including four counts of failing to maintain records of pressure tests required by law since 1971.

    Earlier this week, U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson allowed the company to use the newly disclosed documents in its defense, overruling prosecutors’ objection that at least 3,000 pages were disclosed on the eve of trial, two years after the company received a federal subpoena for test documents.

    PG&E defense attorney Kate Dyer asked Todd Arnett, a supervising engineer for the company, whether he had reviewed every one of the more than 4,600 pages of test records –filling a total of eight large binders – on PG&E’s behalf. He replied that he had.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Hallie Hoffman asked if the documents accounted for all the legally mandated – and previously missing – test data for the five pipelines at issue in the trial.

    “I cannot confirm that,” Arnett said.

    Under further questioning, he acknowledged that some reports appeared to be jumbled, were duplicates or lacked data required by law to authenticate them.

    One test report Arnett said he had previously reviewed showed that the test appeared to take only four hours, instead of the legally required eight-hour test period.

    Others Hoffman showed Arnett did not document the water pressure levels achieved in the tests. Others did not even specify exactly where the test had been done on a particular pipeline. All that data is required under federal law to validate tests.

    Many of the reports dated to after September 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. She asked whether the company launched a large-scale test effort in 2011.

    “Yes we did,” he said, and he also acknowledged that several lines – a total of ten, according to prosecutors – had failed those tests.

    Earlier, Hoffman showed Arnett some emails in which engineers declared it would simply be “too expensive” to test pipelines with missing records.

    Testimony continues on Friday.

    Get the latest from NBC Bay Area anywhere, anytime
    • Download the App

      Available for IOS and Android