Monday, September 26, 2011

[californiadisasters] Feds Fear For Safety of PG&E's Gas System

Feds fear for safety of PG&E's gas system

(09-26) 10:36 PDT SAN BRUNO --

Much of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s natural-gas transmission system could be at risk of catastrophic failure, but the company's record-keeping system is so flawed that the true danger is impossible to determine, federal investigators said today in their final report on last year's San Bruno disaster.

The National Transportation Safety Board said PG&E had made numerous mistakes in the management of its transmission-pipeline system, including its failure to test more widely for substandard welds after finding several on the pipeline that exploded Sept. 9, 2010, and on other pipelines.

Citing "multiple and recurring deficiencies in PG&E operational practices," the safety board found that PG&E suffers from a "systemic problem" related to safety.

The report also said state and federal regulators had not done enough to ensure the company was running a safe system, putting what the safety board's chairwoman called "blind trust" in PG&E despite a dismal track record.

Although PG&E says it has made several reforms designed to improve safety, the federal agency said it remained concerned about the state of the company's record-keeping.

PG&E's records database, the safety board said, "still has a large percentage of assumed, unknown or erroneous information" about the San Bruno line "and likely its other transmission pipelines as well."

"The lack of complete and accurate pipeline information," the board concluded, has "prevented PG&E's integrity management program from being effective."

PG&E had ample warning signs over more than 60 years about the San Bruno pipeline, known as Line 132, that should have led it to perform the type of inspection capable of finding the incomplete longitudinal seam weld that failed last September, the safety board said. The weld's rupture triggered the explosion that killed eight people, destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70 others.


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