PG&E Ordered To Check Thousands Of Miles Of Pipes

October 2010 Vol. 237 No. 10

The California Public Utilities Commission ordered Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to check for leaks in all of its thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines as federal investigators continued to investigate the deadly Sept. 2 San Bruno rupture and explosion.

The California PUC directed PG&E to focus on high-pressure pipelines in heavily populated areas and ordered PG&E to detail how much it has spent to replace pipelines and ensure their safety since 2005. PG&E promised to comply fully. In a statement, the utility said it routinely checked gas pipelines for leaks and had already started surveying the three transmission lines that feed the Peninsula. PG&E also said it had reduced pressure in those three lines by 10% “as an added safety measure.”

Residents want to know why the 30-inch pipeline, which was installed in 1948, exploded so close to homes – and whether other similar pipelines might be a hazard. PG&E operates more than 5,700 miles of gas transmission lines. At least four residents were killed in the blast.

Areas of inquiry include whether PG&E properly monitored and controlled the pipeline with a computer system, whether workers responded quickly enough to cut off the natural gas that continued to rush through the pipe and fuel the inferno, and whether there are any systemic problems.

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