The order stemmed from the NTSB's discovery that the company's documentation related to the exploded section of pipe in San Bruno incorrectly showed the pipe as seamless, when in fact it contained multiple flawed welds.
After reviewing the submitted documents, however, the commission is not impressed. From a letter sent to PG&E President Christopher Johns by CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon. The letter takes PG&E to task for relying on a recounting of the grandfathering process that set maximum allowable operating pressure on pipelines in 1970, rather than documentation showing that the pressures are, in fact, safe.
In its March 15 response, PG&E failed to comply with this demand for information and analysis, and as a consequence PG&E is violating the Commission' s order.
PG&E's March 15 response contends that "PG&E understands the intent to be to identify reliable records confirming the performance of a pressure test or the determination of MAOP based on the historical high operating pressure." (PG&E Response, page 7 (emphasis added.) (Ed. Note: MAOP = Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure)
PG&E has no legitimate or good-faith basis for the conclusion quoted above in italics. As you well know, the whole purpose of the NTSB's urgent safety recommendations, and for the Commission's directive to PG&E, was to find, to the extent possible, a basis for setting maximum allowable operating pressure by means other than the grandfathering method described in PG&E's response.
By its action , PG&E not only is refusing to comply with the plain terms of the Commission' s orders and the NTSB's urgent safety recommendations, but worse, may be placing public safety in jeopardy. This is particularly inexcusable in the wake of the tragedy at San Bruno.
Yesterday, KQED's Tara Siler interviewed Paul Clanon, and in keeping with the tone of his letter, he sounded, frankly, incredulous at PG&E's filing, calling it "amazing."
"I'm amazed to tell you that PG&E, far short of providing complete records..., gave us no records on their grandfathered pipelines," he said. "Except, for some reason, going back to show us how they set the maximum operating pressure during the grandfathering process back in 1970. That is beside the point, and that tells me that PG&E has not learned the lessons from San Bruno."
Clanon also said the commission might consider fining PG&E as much as $1 million per day until it is in compliance with the order.
When questioned about the CPUC's PG&E spokesman Joe Molica sent the following response to Tara Siler:
PG&E’s highest priority is the safety of its customers and the communities we serve. PG&E has already reduced pressure by 20 percent on over 190 miles of pipelines. In yesterday’s filing to the Commission, PG&E also outlined an aggressive inspection and field test plan that will raise the bar on safety industry-wide. In 2011, PG&E plans to hydro test or replace approximately 150 miles of pipeline in high consequence areas, and will significantly expand that program in coming years.
While we have made good progress on our records validation, we are not satisfied with the results to date and know we have more work to do. We will continue to search and review our files for the pressure test records and provide the Commission with regular updates on our efforts. PG&E has provided the CPUC with key records for more than 90% of its 1,805 miles of gas transmission pipelines in high-consequence areas. Following the Commission’s January 3, 2011 directive, PG&E mobilized hundreds of employees and external resources to gather, scan, and analyze approximately 1.25 million records. Many of these teams have worked in shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
PG&E also supports the thoughtful review and enhancement of existing safety standards, including phasing out the use of historic operating pressure to establish MAOP of pipelines in California and nationally.