Utility workers who report alleged natural gas problems and\/or safety violations should be protected by new California Public Utilities Commission regulations, concluded a commission staff report issued last week. Currently, CPUC rules do not safeguard workers who raise safety concerns. In its report, however, the agency staff is proposing rules to prohibit worker retaliations and require utilities to post the CPUC\u2019s contact information for reporting natural gas safety and health violations. If the staff\u2019s proposed regulations are adopted, a utility that retaliates against a whistleblower, who in \u201cgood faith\u201d contacts the commission about an unsafe condition, would violate CPUC rules, as well as state and federal laws, the Aug. 2 report explains. The commission is weighing establishing safeguards for whistleblowers subjected to employer retaliation to increase public safety of the natural gas systems. The commission is taking safety complaints seriously, executive director Paul Clanon said this week. \u201cIt\u2019s a new day in safety at the commission.\u201d The staff report summarizes findings of a June 14 workshop. It is an offshoot of the commission\u2019s Feb. 25, 2011, order instituting rulemaking to adopt new safety and reliability regulations for natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines as directed by federal regulators. State regulators also initiated the whistleblower rulemaking after noting it lacked \u201ca comprehensive program to protect persons who have and wish to protect an on-going relationship with a public utility but who are in possession of information regarding a threat to public safety concerning that utility\u2019s operations.\u201d Employees and contractors who\u2019ve anonymously reported gas pipeline and related risks have complained to regulators about retaliation from their utility employers. According to the report, about one-half of natural gas safety complaints made by Pacific Gas & Electric employees or contractors were made anonymously the last five years. One-third of SoCal Gas\u2019 workers made anonymous complaints because of concerns about retribution for reporting gas safety issues. In the last five years, 30 whistleblower reports were filed with PG&E--12 after the San Bruno blast. In September 2010, a PG&E gas transmission pipe exploded, resulting in eight deaths and considerable property damage. Southern California Edison reported nine safety complaints and San Diego Gas & Electric three complaints. PG&E and Edison protested regulatory efforts to protect whistleblowers, claiming they already are protected by state law, and that the commission protection would be duplicative.