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New CPUC Report Alleges PG&E Violated Safety Regulations

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The California Public Utility Commission’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division (CPSD) released its incident investigation report in which it alleged that Pacific Gas & Electric violated the Public Utilities Code, several federal and state pipeline safety regulations and failed to follow accepted industry standards.

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On Sept. 9, 2010, a 30-in diameter natural gas transmission pipeline, owned and operated by PG&E, ruptured and ignited in a San Bruno neighborhood, resulting in eight deaths, 58 injuries and the destruction of 38 homes. Since then, there have been reports by the National Transportation Safety Board and an independent review panel that take the utility to task for its failures and mismanagement.

The CPSD investigation, which came to many of the same conclusions as the other reports, revealed that the San Bruno incident was caused by "PG&E’s failure to follow accepted industry practice when constructing the section of pipe that failed, PG&E’s inadequate record-keeping practices, the utility’s failure to comply with integrity management requirements, deficiencies in PG&E’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System and inadequate procedures to handle emergencies and abnormal conditions, the utility’s deficient emergency response actions after the incident, and a systemic failure of PG&E’s corporate culture to emphasize safety over profits."

The release of this report basically means that a formal enforcement action will be upcoming, leading to possible penalties and other remedies, according to the CPUC. Terrie Prosper, CPUC spokeswoman, said that an administrative law judge will need to be appointed to oversee this proceeding, but a selection has not yet been made and no date for the selection has been announced.

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