Anytime Republicans start harping about excessive regulations or whining about "wasteful" spending on infrastructure, they should be reminded of this story and what can go wrong when you don't have the proper amount of either.
Even though state officials awarded PG&E nearly $5 million in ratepayer money in 2007 to replace a South San Francisco natural gas line identified as a high safety risk, the utility never did the work and is now seeking another $5 million to make the repairs, a consumer group charged Wednesday.
The accusations came as the San Bruno catastrophe generated a wave of legislative proposals to reduce the chances of such a disaster happening again, including a move from the Obama administration to stiffen oversight of the nation's pipelines and boost fines for safety violations.
The allegations from the consumer group The Utility Reform Network center on a section of pipe north of the gas line that exploded in San Bruno. That South San Francisco section is on a list of 100 portions of pipe that PG&E has declared a high risk. TURN added that the California Public Utilities Commission granted the company almost $5 million from ratepayers three years ago, assuming PG&E would replace the pipe in 2009.
But TURN said that work wasn't done and that PG&E has recently submitted a list of construction projects it wants the state agency to pay for, which includes a request for another $5 million to replace the same section of South San Francisco pipe.
In response to TURN's charges, PG&E issued a statement saying it "is committed to performing the work necessary to assure the safety of its gas transmission system" and "is constantly prioritizing its projects using the most recent up to date information available."
"In this particular case," the company's statement said, "PG&E did identify this line section as being a high priority project in its 2008 gas transmission rate case filing. Subsequent to that filing PG&E performed an External Corrosion Direct Assessment (ECDA) in 2009 and based on the updated assessment, and the assurance it provided us, we rescheduled the project accordingly." Read on...