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PG&E Touts Progress While Investigators Focus on Safety Violations

Two separate reports issued last week call into question PG&E's claims that it has made progress in improving its commitment to pipeline safety since the 2010 San Bruno fire.

In a recent report to the National Transportation Safety Board, PG&E said it has made “significant progress” in fixing its pipeline operations since the San Bruno pipeline explosion.

In particular, some of PG&E’s fundamental changes have included checking the maximum operating pressure on 2,088 miles of pipeline in highly populated areas and 1,032 miles of pipeline in rural areas and installing 36 automatic shutoff valves on pipelines throughout its system, the company said in a report last week.

The company has also performed high-pressure tests on an additional 37.6 miles of pipeline this year—all signs, PG&E said, that it is making strides toward completely revamping its approach to pipeline safety.

“Much more work lays ahead, but the progress to date gives us confidence that PG&E is on track to achieving the goal of regaining trust of the public and our regulators by demonstrating our steadfast commitment to safety,” PG&E said in the report.

The report is a follow up to the NTSB’s  at the end of its final investigation on the Crestmoor neighborhood fire, which concluded that a defective weld in PG&E’s Line 132—in addition to a systemic problem of faulty oversight by the utility over its pipeline safety practices—led to the explosion.

Of those new recommendations, eight were directed at PG&E to fix its operations so that its pipelines would be safer.

At the same time, the California Public Utilities Commission’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division, which is for the deadly pipeline explosion, said Friday that PG&E failed to follow federal and state rules with 150 miles of pipeline. PG&E failed to properly monitor the maximum operating pressure of those lines, which created a serious danger to the people living and working near those lines, state investigators said.

The Wall Street Journal further explained how serious were those violations:

Investigators concluded that PG&E violated 3,062 code violations that they calculated were equivalent to more than 15 million daily violations over the period of "noncompliance." If the state's maximum penalties were applied, the violations could bring fines of as much as $220 billion. State regulators are unlikely to levy fines that large, although the findings, which follow earlier investigations that also uncovered multiple violations of state and federal rules, could lead to fines of more than $1 billion.

State law sets the maximum penalty for such violations at $20,000 a day, which would bring the penalty to as much as $220 billion.

Does the state Consumer Protection and Safety Division’s latest report make you question PG&E’s claims that it has made progress since the 2010 San Bruno fire?

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