Feds blame PG&E for San Bruno explosion

September 1, 2011

Federal investigators issued a scathing critique of PG&E this week, citing what one official called “baffling” mistakes that led to the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion last September, killing eight people and destroyed 38 homes. [LA Times]

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also indicated that PG&E exploited the lack of monitoring by regulators and lacked a workable emergency response plan that could have helped prevent the devastation that occurred in the Bay Area community.

Tuesday’s report marks the first time officials have assigned blame for the incident.

The explosion is “the story of flawed pipe, flawed inspection and flawed emergency response,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, who chairs the NTSB. “It was not a question of if the pipe would fail, but when.”

NTSB officials said PG&E took almost 95 minutes to shut off the gas spewing from the pipeline in San Bruno. The NTSB contends that a lack of automatic shut-off valves and valves that can be closed remotely contributed to the slow response.

But officials said the problems that led to the disaster began with mistakes PG&E made decades earlier.

When the utility relocated the pipeline in 1956, the seams running along the length of the pipe were welded only on the outside, a defect that led to the rupture and a problem that officials said could have been easily discovered with visual inspections.

The company, which operates the pipeline, also mistakenly listed the pipeline section as seamless in its records, when, in fact, it was welded.

The NTSB asserted that the poor welding would not have have met industry standards at the time, leading the board to conclude that PG&E ignored or overlooked the defect.

The utility missed opportunities to address shortcomings in its pipeline systems after similar systematic problems surfaced during two earlier ruptures, NTSB officials said, one in San Francisco in 1981 and another in Rancho Cordova in 2008.

In a prepared statement, PG&E President Chris Johns praised the investigation as thorough and said the company would take the NTSB’s findings seriously.

 

 

 


7 Comments

  1. slomike says:

    Took this puppy off the front age too soon. http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_18814958

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  2. stopagenda21 says:

    Very comforting to know that the N.R.C. monitors our nuke plants.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. unlisted says:

    What do you expect from PG&E???

    Watch the movie Erin Brockovich!

    They just lie, cheat and murder for a profit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  4. slomike says:

    I guess this issue isn’t important to the teacher/firefighter/public employee retirement bashers commentees, but the last PG&E CEO, Darbee, just retired with a $35,000,000 retirement package! I cried in the wilderness as McCarthy denied signing Norquist’s tax pledge for years. This titanic rip-off of utility subscibers is another issue of interest to no one, it seems. Gotta get those welfare cadillac illegals and public troughers, instead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

    • JesseJames says:

      Did you just compare a corporate CEO’s retirement package to public servants retirement package?

      Just to be clear and I’m not condoning what this guy did or the amount of money he’s making but you’re saying a public servant’s retirement package can be compared to a CEO of a multibillion dollar company?

      That the tax payers who pay the public servants retirement should complain about the CEO’s retirement for a company they don’t own or fund… ?

      I’m dumbfounded. They aren’t related. Like not even a little bit.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

      • slomike says:

        If we were talking of Ford or General Motors, where you could choose (even whether or not to buy)
        I wouldn’t complain. I would simply grind my teeth. But, when you are dealing with a monopoly controlling a universal need I think the situation differs. The taxpayers are ratepayers and vice versa. Neither have control of how their payments are spent. We do fund this company and we will pay.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  5. Typoqueen says:

    Again, I’ll repeat this,,,,these are the people that we trust with our local nuke plant. How comforting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

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