PG&E Says Its Shoddy Gas Lines Are Dangerous, Wants Big Rate Increase

Tuesday, July 03, 2012
(photo: Brent Ward, San Francisco Chronicle)


Pacific Gas & Electric, citing a new report that it has identified 239 shoddy natural gas lines that could explode like the San Bruno blast that killed eight people two years ago, has asked for a big rate increase to help pay for repairs.

The $12-a-month rate boost would generate $2 billion over three years, which the company says would be used to replace old gas lines, install leak detection systems and make other upgrades. PG&E, which has been heavily criticized for poor management, said the pipes spanning 48 miles are at risk of failure because they are old and have been subjected to the same type of overpressurization without testing that led to the San Bruno explosion which leveled 38 homes in the San Francisco suburb. It said the transmission lines are riddled with the same kind of vulnerable seam welds that federal investigators say caused the San Bruno blast.

Consumer advocates said PG&E can’t justify the rate increases because customers have already been asked to pay for line repairs in a separate plan. Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, said, “It remains to be seen whether there is any justification, in terms of safety or reliability, for the massive increases PG&E is proposing.”

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Kasten, through whose city two of the suspect PG&E lines run, was skeptical of the utility’s sincerity about fixing the lines. “They have a history of either not knowing or not caring about their system,” he said. State regulators have accused the utility of lousy record keeping, failure to do required tests, control room breakdowns, a crummy emergency response and a culture that “emphasized profits over safety.”

PG&E agreed in March to pay the city of San Bruno $70 million to create a nonprofit organization to assist victims of the explosion. The utility also faces a class-action lawsuit that consolidates 95 cases representing more than 300 plaintiffs. The suit’s trial date was recently moved from June 23 to October 9.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

PG&E: 239 Calif. Pipelines at Risk of Failure (by Garance Burke, Associated Press)

PG&E Identifies 239 Pipelines at Risk of Failure (by Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle)

PG&E Blames Deadly San Bruno Blast on Pipe Test the State Says Never Happened (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

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