PG&E missing key San Bruno documents

August 16, 2011

San Bruno explosion Sept. 9 2010

New federal findings, released Monday, report that Pacific Gas & Electric is unable to find key documents about the section of natural gas pipeline that exploded last fall in San Bruno and has depended on faulty or nonexistent data to vouch for the safety of the rest of the pipeline. [Chronicle]

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators remain hampered by a lack of specific information about the section of pipe that exploded Sept. 9, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

Although PG&E provided about 300 pages to the safety board related to a 1956 pipe rerouting project near the rupture site, its “documentation does not include PG&E’s specifications, purchase orders for new pipe, inspection records, foreman’s log books, as-built drawings or (X-ray) radiography reports,” according to the NTSB report.

Without PG&E having produced basic records about the pipeline, it is unclear how the company chose a method in recent years to comply with federal law mandating that pipeline operators inspect older pipes. Operators are required to review pipeline histories before choosing a method.

PG&E said earlier this year that it had been unable to produce all documents vouching for the safety of about a quarter of its 1,800 miles of gas transmission pipeline in Northern and Central California. The state ordered PG&E to find such documents after federal investigators discovered that the company incorrectly believed the ruptured part of the San Bruno pipeline had been built without longitudinal seams.

UC Berkeley engineering Professor Robert Bea, who has followed the federal government’s probe, said PG&E’s inability to produce such key documentation this far into the investigation is disturbing. “It speaks volumes that they can’t find it,” Bea said.

PG&E’s lack of documentation about the San Bruno section of pipe is repeated at other spots along the 51 miles of the transmission line running from the South Bay to San Francisco, the federal safety board said.

Investigators have found that the company does not know the thickness of the pipe’s walls for 21 miles, does not know who manufactured more than three-quarters of the line and does not know how deeply the pipe is buried for more than 40 miles of its course.

Federal investigators also found that at some segments where PG&E lacks data, it made overly optimistic assumptions about the pipe’s strength rather than figuring on a lower level, as industry practice requires.











  1. Typoqueen says:

    Oh geez,,these are the guys running our nuke plant,,,how reassuring.

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  2. SLOChuck says:

    Perhaps John Wallace is on their Board Of Directors?

    (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  3. R.Hodin says:

    If you think PG&E has a system for archiving these older documents, think again. There was no system. Hence, no documents.

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  4. bobfromsanluis says:

    Why don’t we demand that the chairman of PG&E be jailed until all of the documentation can be provided? After the first week, another executive from PG&E joins the chairman, and another the following week, with no bail available for anyone to walk out until the demands of the government are met. Somehow if this was enacted I don’t think there would be anyone from PG&E spending one night in jail, they would somehow produce the missing documents; how damaging those documents are going to be to show how lax the utility has been in maintaining the pipelines is still to be determined, but I believe that somehow PG&E is not going to come out of this whole situation unscathed.

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
    • Fedup says:

      That probably wouldn’t work. PG&E already owns most of the politicians in California.

      (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
    • LittleAcorn says:

      A few gaps in paperwork wouldn’t be a crisis, but the extent of missing paperwork shocks me.

      What if the state required PG&E to hire a respected company to do a complete inspection of all undocumented pipe. Then force the stockholders to foot the bill, rather than the customers.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
      • amusselm says:

        That would do a lot more to acctually fix whatever problems may exist with the natural gas pipeline network than any CEO perp walk. Isn’t that what we really want?

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  5. Fedup says:

    This from the company that wants to put “Smart” meters on your home so they can monitor your hourly power consumption. What a bunch of crooks.

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
  6. Dexter says:

    Reference ….. “New federal findings, released Monday, report that Pacific Gas & Electric is unable to find key documents ….”

    Gee wiz ….. it sounds like they have been taking their cue from Wade McKinney and the Atascadero City Council.

    (14) 14 Total Votes - 14 up - 0 down

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