Thursday, April 28, 2011

PG&E admits it can't fill California PUC order for pipeline records

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Pacific Gas and Electric Co. told California regulators on April 21 that it will never find documents for some of its older gas pipelines, and that if the state doesn't accept "assumptions" about some pipes, the company will have to spend five years shutting them down and hydrostatically testing them.

In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E said it cannot satisfy a state order to come up with "traceable, verifiable and complete" records on all 1,800-plus miles of its pipeline in and around urban areas.

The commission issued the order after it was revealed that PG&E's records incorrectly described as seamless the San Bruno pipeline that exploded Sept. 9, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. Federal metallurgists have concluded that the pipe failed at a seam weld, but PG&E never conducted inspections that might have detected the problem weld.

PG&E couldn't come up with records for more than 600 miles of gas transmission line by the state's March 15 deadline and has proposed that it pay a $3 million fine while it produces additional documentation by August. The utilities commission is still considering the deal.

In its April 21 filing, PG&E called the order for complete records "unprecedented" and said that full documentation would be a "very difficult, if not infeasible, threshold to achieve."

Before the March 15 deadline, the company enlisted hundreds of employees to search through more than a million boxed documents, looking for records to back up PG&E's stated safety levels on pipelines.

Instead of complete records, PG&E said, it wants the commission to accept what amount to educated guesses about some pipelines.

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