Specifics Asked and Deflected

PG&E readies for investigation, potential scandal

Major California utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric comes under intensified pressure this week, as a former employee has agreed to testify, and local reports unearth new findings in regards to suspected record-keeping omissions that followed lethal pipeline explosions in 2010 and 2014.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday that Leslie Banach McNiece has agreed to testify in hearings expected to begin March 8th. McNiece worked at PG&E from 2012-2014; she was brought in specifically to investigate and correct record-keeping irregularities identified following a 2010 explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that left 8 people dead and 38 homes damaged beyond repair. McNiece contends that she constantly was rebuffed and blockaded when trying to reform a flawed system during her three-year tenure at PG&E.

The property that was destroyed in Carmel, Cal., during the 2014 explosion.

The property that was destroyed in Carmel, Cal., during the 2014 explosion.

“PG&E was fined $1.6 billion by the California Public Utilities Commission in April 2015 for violations of state and federal pipeline safety standards. That was ten times the previous biggest fine levied in California and one of the biggest-ever fines for a utility,” Herman Trabish of Utility Dive reported on January 15th.

Federal prosecutors’ filings contain claims that the utility was aware of deficiencies in its geographic information systems and disposed of the records noting these deficiencies. The 2014 gas explosion, which occurred in Carmel, Calif., destroyed a vacant cottage and allegedly prompted PG&E managers to ask for McNiece’s assistance in gaining secret access to other records that would demonstrate their neglected responsibilities for the incident. She was fired upon her refusal to help them.

Remnants of the pipeline from the 2010 San Bruno explosion.

Remnants of the pipeline from the 2010 San Bruno explosion.

No one was killed or injured in the Carmel explosion, but easily would have been had they been within range. The impending case has incited significant concerns from the city of Carmel regarding the safety of its citizens, many of whom are supplied power by the company. “The utility said it has completed a multi-year effort to consolidate and digitize more than 12 million pages of gas service records associated with 3.3 million gas distribution services, and has consolidated into an electronic database more than 4 million records related to its transmission pipeline system from nearly 60 field offices,” reports George Avalos of the Contra Costa times, a Bay Area news service.

PG&E, headquartered in San Francisco, is one of the largest utilities in California, providing natural gas and electricity to almost two-thirds of the state.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. PG&E Found Guilty | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - August 11, 2016

    […] practices, including an attempted cover-up where employees were encouraged to evade regulations (exposed earlier this year when one of those employees “blew the whistle”) and patterns of unreported pipeline […]

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