Tuesday, October 19, 2010

California names panel to investigate Pacific Gas & Electric

A five-member panel has been created by the California Public Utilities Commission to look into the cause of the Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., and find ways to avoid such tragedies in the future.

Eight persons died in the inferno, and 37 homes were destroyed when the aged high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline ruptured.

Members of the blue ribbon panel were selected by PUC President Michael Peevey.

The panel will be chaired by Larry Vanderhoef, chancellor emeritus at University of California, Davis. Other members are Patrick Lavin, an executive council member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Karl Pister, chair of the governing board of the California Council on Science and Technology; Jan Schori, former CEO of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District; and Paula Rosput Reynolds, former CEO of an Atlanta energy services holding company and a one-time PG&E executive.
Because the panel is supposed to be independent, Reynolds' former ties with PG&E were questioned by commissioner Timothy Simon. But Peevey, who nominated the panel members, dismissed the concern.
"She brings an incredible breadth of experience in running a gas utility and that's the kind of expertise and knowledge that will be very valuable, I think, to the other members of the panel," Peevey said.
One concern about keeping the gas line pressure low is that it might reduce the electricity output from the Potrero Power Plant in San Francisco, which is largely fueled by natural gas.

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