Pacific Gas & Electric agreed to pay $6 million in penalties to the California Public Utilities Commission for failing to supply adequate safety records for its natural gas transmission pipeline network. \u201cThis is a very serious matter,\u201d commissioner Tim Simon said March 24. CPUC executive director Paul Clanon announced the stipulated agreement outlining the penalties at this week\u2019s commission\u2019s meeting. The pact also outlines a utility pledge to fully comply with orders aimed at assuring the safety of its aging pipelines. The agreement is set to be publicly aired at a March 28 hearing. The aim, said Clanon, is to develop all the information PG&E and regulators need to make sure the utility\u2019s pipeline system can be operated and updated as needed to assure public safety. One of its key provisions, he explained, requires PG&E to complete testing of pipelines by the end of this August where the maximum safe operating pressure is uncertain. If PG&E meets all deadlines in the agreement, $3 million of the utility\u2019s fine could be suspended, the commission said. CPUC staff negotiated the agreement after finding the utility failed to comply with orders issued by both the National Transportation Safety Board and commission. Both agencies directed the utility to divulge extensive records as part of their investigation of a tragic explosion along a PG&E pipeline in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010. It killed eight people and leveled 38 homes. In reviewing PG&E\u2019s report on the documents, the CPUC found the utility could not assure the maximum safe operating pressure of some 455 miles of aging pipeline and had failed to run pressure tests in the wake of the accident (Current, March 18, 2011). Earlier this week, PG&E asked state regulators to extend to the end of the year the deadline for filling gaps in documentation recording gas pipeline pressure in densely populated regions. According to the March 21 CPUC filing, the utility stated it sent employees and contractors to nearly 50 locations to search out and review records. In addition, almost 37,000 current and former gas employees were interviewed. The penalty came after that apparently vain effort by the utility to fully document safe pressure levels along its 1,805 miles of high-pressure transmission pipeline. In that effort, PG&E hustled to gather records from those facilities throughout much of the state, assembling them in the Cow Palace in San Francisco, a large exhibition hall. Newly-appointed CPUC member Mark Ferron called the record gathering and review exercise a \u201cshocking and deeply disturbing\u201d operation that displayed a lack of \u201cfull management attention.\u201d In other action, advocates representing low-income ratepayers lambasted the CPUC over a proposed rate increase of about $800 million in PG&E territory. The day before its meeting, CPUC president Mike Peevey pulled the rate increase item for further study without comment. The commission delayed action on the rate hike until April 14. The CPUC also opened a rulemaking aimed at developing a plan for how utilities should use the money they get from auctioning off carbon emissions rights they\u2019re expected to get for free under the state\u2019s carbon cap-and-trade program. The commission acknowledged that the rulemaking could be slowed, pending the resolution of litigation which is holding up the California Air Resources Board from moving forward with the carbon trading program (see related story on page 12). Finally, the commission denied PG&E authority to build and operate its proposed 246 MW Manzana Wind Project on grounds its $911 million cost was out of line with the typically lower cost of other available renewable resources.