Feds Deem PG&E Pipeline Safety ‘Critical’

By Published On: January 7, 2011

Four months after the gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Jan. 3 issued “urgent” recommendations to Pacific Gas & Electric to reduce gas pipeline operational risks “We believe this safety-critical issue needs to be examined carefully to ensure that operators are accurately gauging their risk and that pipelines are being operated at pressures no higher than that for which they were built to withstand,” stated Deborah Hersman, NTSB chair. The Sept. 9 blast killed eight people and destroyed more than three dozen homes. The federal regulator found record-keeping problems at PG&E. It revealed the utility incorrectly recorded that the pipe at the center of the investigation was seamless although it was seam-welded. “The NTSB is concerned that the seam-welded sections may not be as strong as the seamless pipe that was indicated in PG&E’s records,” stated the agency. The Safety Board also directed the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates gas pipelines within the state, to ensure all intrastate pipeline operators adhere to safety protocols. Paul Clanon, CPUC executive director, sent a letter to PG&E the same day the federal recommendations were released. He insisted the utility comply with the federal recommendations to correct its erroneous paperwork by Jan. 7. “PG&E is giving these recommendations close and immediate attention,” stated Kirk Johnson, PG&E vice president of gas engineering and operations. The federal agency ordered the utility to: -Revise its records to “accurately reflect the pipeline infrastructure;” -Identify all the gas transmission lines that have not undergone operating pressure tests; and -Determine a safe operating pressure. In addition, the NTSB ordered the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to direct the pipeline industry to implement any corrective measures needed to avoid erroneous record keeping that could have safety implications. The NTSB is set to hold an investigative hearing on the San Bruno accident March 1-2 in Washington, D.C.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now