Continued problems with antiquated PG&E gas lines

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     City Manager News Release

City of San Carlos
City Manager’s Office
City Hall
600 Elm Street
Phone: (650) 802-4210
Fax: (650) 595-6729

10/4/2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE #10042013
Subject : City Manager Declares State of Emergency
– Emergency Council Meeting Called – Safety Concerns PG&E Natural Gas Transmission Line
Contact : Jeff Maltbie, City Manager, City Manager    (650)802-4228
jmaltbie@cityofsancarlos.org
Jay Walter, Public Works Director, Public Works    (650) 802-4203
jwalter@cityofsancarlos.org

SAN CARLOS, CA, October 4, 2013 – At 3:45 PM on October 4th, 2013 the San Carlos City Manager declared a State of Emergency and called for an emergency meeting of the San Carlos City Council after PG&E refused the City’s request to voluntarily shut down their natural gas transmission line 147. San Carlos Council members will have the opportunity to consider adopting a Resolution requiring PG&E to shut down line 147, and confirm the City Manager’s declaration of an emergency, and the decision to immediately pursue a court ordered shutdown of line 147.

Mayor Bob Grassilli expressed his frustration with PG&E’s refusal to immediately suspend operation of line 147. “PG&E’s own information on Line 147 is contradictory, and confusing regarding the safety of line 147.  We believe PG&E has a responsibility to our community to put safety ahead of operational challenges, and should immediately suspend the use of line 147, until such time they can explain to the California Public Utilities Commission and the public the inconsistencies in their own documentation, records and internal communications regarding line 147.”

At approximately 11:45 am on Friday, October 4th, the City of San Carlos made a request to PG&E for the utility to voluntarily shut down natural gas transmission line 147, until such time as a hearing could be conducted with the CPUC to resolve issues identified by PG&E in a series of internal emails (attached) in 2012, and for PG&E to demonstrate to the public that Line 147 is safe to operate.

At 10:15 am on Thursday, October 3, 2013, representatives of PG&E provided City officials with a series of e-mails dated November 15-17, 2012, which included alarming information about the condition of gas transmission line 147, in the aftermath of a leak repair.  Line 147 runs the length of the City of San Carlos under Brittan Avenue, which is a residential street in San Carlos, and carries thousands of residents daily to their homes and schools.

The series of internal PG&E e-mails discloses that the pipeline contains certain sections made up of a “thin wall” pipe made of materials manufactured in 1929, that the surface of the pipe has external corrosion with fatigue cracks, and questioned whether, “we are sitting on a San Bruno situation.”  The wall thickness of the pipe was redacted from the e-mail, so it is impossible to tell its specifications.   The area of corrosion was said to be where previous welding had occurred.

The e-mails also confirm that the line 147 pipe specification is inconsistent with the current records data in the PG&E system.

The City of San Carlos had been verbally assured by a high ranking PG&E Official, as recently as September 16, 2013, that Line 147 is safe.  The November 2012 e-mails casts serious doubt on this assertion and raises the shocking likelihood that line 147 is as dangerous as the Line 132, which disastrously failed in San Bruno on September 9, 2010. Moreover, this woefully late disclosure of information about the condition of this pipeline is outrageous, and based on the PG&E e-mails places the residents of San Carlos in potential danger, without any reasonable justification .

City Manager Jeff Maltbie stated, “we have been working with the assistance of Senator Jerry Hill, Assembly Member Kevin Mullin and US Representative Jackie Speier in communicating with PG&E representatives  throughout the day, in an attempt to convince PG&E to shutdown line 147 until we and the public can be assured that it is operating safely.  PG&E’s refusal to suspend operation of line 147 is an outrage.”

Congresswoman Jackie Speier stated, “Yesterday, the City of San Carlos was informed of a November 2012 email by a PG&E engineer expressing concern that line 147 could be “a San Bruno situation.”  I support the city’s demand that Line 147 be turned off.  There are four reasons to do so.  First, the utility’s engineer expressed concern that there may be older pipe in line 147 that was induced to crack as a result of the hydrostatic test conducted on the line in 2011.  This alone should necessitate that the line be turned off.  Second, line 147 leaked in one location and it is still  not completely understood why it leaked, although a patch at that location may be the reason.  Third, the nature of the pipe’s construction at yet another point – and perhaps as many as three points- is not yet fully understood by PG&E.  Finally, the utility withheld from city staff until yesterday, after it appeared that the email had leaked to the press, the November 2012 email expressing concerns about the integrity of the pipeline.  These are four good reasons for the city to demand that the pipeline be turned off until we know that it is safe to operate or that repairs, if needed, have been made.  I call upon the CPUC to investigate the history of this pipeline’s testing and operation in order to determine the proper course of action on this line.  For now, however, the proper course of action is to shut off the gas.”

Senator Jerry Hill expressed, “The latest disclosures raise serious questions about the type of testing that was conducted and whether a large enough section of the pipeline was replaced.  Because PG&E bears the burden of proof, the utility should err on the side of safety and take whatever steps are necessary to assure residents of San Carlos that the pipe is secure.”

Assemblymember Kevin Mullin commented, “It is outrageous that PG&E has had information for 11 months of a possible compromise in one of its pipelines and the company to date has failed to remedy the situation.  Given the San Bruno tragedy, PG&E should err on the side of caution and shut down line 147 immediately, until it can assure the public that the line is 100 percent safe. “

Deputy Fire Chief Stan Maupin advises residents in San Carlos that there is no immediate action required on the part of the public at this time, and if natural gas smell is detected, to call PG&E’s emergency service center at 1-800-743-5000.  In the event of an emergency,  call 911 immediately.

PGE & San Carlos-page-003 Oct 2013 PGE & San Carlos-page-001 Oct 2013 PGE & San Carlos-page-002 Oct 2013

 

 

OP-ED: PG&E and the PUC Exposed

September 24, 2013

San Mateo Daily Journal

By Jerry Hill

Facing a $2.25 billion penalty for safety lapses that led to the fatal 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is raising the specter of bankruptcy in an effort to scare state regulators into cutting the utility a break.

In its original case before the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E’s witness said that it could absorb that level of fine. Now PG&E’s CEO warns that it may not be able to sell enough shares to come up with the penalty money.

Why the 180-degree change in strategy? PG&E realizes that its cronies at the CPUC are running out of scenarios in which they can save both PG&E and their own credibility.

Despite the CPUC president’s and his lieutenants’ bluster that they’re prepared to “throw the book at PG&E,” the commission is doing everything it can to give PG&E a soft landing.

Last October, CPUC leadership cajoled its safety division — whose job was to prosecute PG&E — into asking that the utility not answer to cross-examination and instead move into closed-door settlement negotiations. When negotiations collapsed, the CPUC Safety Division, the city of San Bruno and other parties proposed fines of roughly $2.25 billion. The CPUC leaders engaged in a media blitz, descending on editorial boards across the state, taking credit for such a stiff sanction. A month later, however, all the safety division’s lawyers were taken off the case for objecting to PUC leadership’s “clarification” — PG&E would be able to take credit for all past and future safety-related expenses, so its proposed fine in fact would be no fine at all.

Let’s not forget what the National Transportation Safety Board said about PG&E after investigating the San Bruno disaster. The NTSB called PG&E “a company that exploited weaknesses in a lax system of oversight … to the detriment of public safety.” The problem was “compounded over the years by a litany of failures — including poor recordkeeping, inadequate inspection programs,” the NTSB also said.

The CPUC’s disingenuous attempts to look tough have been exposed, and it can’t let PG&E off the hook and appear honest. Now the utility is running to Wall Street to pressure the CPUC to have mercy.

PG&E is even having community organizations it donates to write guest perspectives in this paper to perpetuate the bankruptcy scare tactics in an effort to get a reduced fine from the PUC. PG&E also invoked the threat of bankruptcy to kill legislation I authored to make PG&E profits depend on safety performance.

The irony is that a majority of the penalties proposed against PG&E are to offset rate increases for testing and replacement programs that you are paying for — increases that wouldn’t be necessary had PG&E appropriately maintained its pipelines over the years.

The reason that we do not have a settlement yet regarding the 2010 explosion that killed eight people, and the reason that the CPUC’s Safety Division and other parties have proposed such a large fine, is PG&E’s unwillingness to admit its shortcomings and own up to the disaster. Under cross-examination before the CPUC, PG&E’s paid witness had the audacity to testify that he believed the utility’s safety programs were effective and that the NTSB got it wrong.

The city of San Bruno, the safety division and ratepayer advocates are doing exactly what they should be doing: advocating a stiff penalty for an unrepentant company.

We’ve been paying our monthly utility bills all along expecting PG&E to properly maintain its gas pipelines. A strong fine ensures that shareholders pay for improvements that have been neglected in favor of profits. This is the only way we can teach PG&E a lesson so it won’t repeat these mistakes in the future.

Jerry Hill represents the city of San Bruno in the California Senate.

– See more at: http://sd13.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-09-24-op-ed-pge-and-puc-exposed#sthash.xBm2A0tK.dpuf

San Mateo Daily Journal

San Carlos officials demand PG&E shut down aging gas line

October 04, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand  San Mateo Daily Journal

The San Carlos City Council is demanding PG&E shut down an 84-year-old gas line that runs through densely developed neighborhoods, calling it a potential public safety hazard that might leave residents and visitors “sitting on a San Bruno situation.”

 

The council gathered Friday evening in a hastily called meeting to declare a public health and safety emergency and request Pacific Gas and Electric shut down Line 147 until the California Public Utilities Commission has determined it is safe to operate.

 

Councilman Mark Olbert said prior to the meeting that as he understood the situation, it is not one of imminent threat and the city is not trying to set off alarm bells. However, Olbert said PG&E’s track record on record keeping is “very disturbing” and the declaration is the beginning step toward further action if necessary to force the closure.

 

“As San Bruno showed, they fell down on record keeping. They don’t know what they have in the ground in a lot of places,” Olbert said, referencing the Sept. 10, 2010 explosion and fire that killed eight, injured dozens and destroyed 38 homes.

 

In a statement issued Friday, City Manager Jeff Maltbie said the emergency declaration will be followed by pursuing a court-ordered shutdown of the line. PG&E’s refuse to suspend operations is “an outrage,” Maltbie said.

 

In a letter to Maltbie Friday, PG&E officials emphasized that the line was tested in 2011 and showed it would withstand beyond current operating pressure. A test this summer also indicated that there was no evidence of crack growth during service or hydro testing, according to the letter.

 

PG&E said it will voluntarily reduce the line pressure by 20 percent and evaluate if any additional pressure reduction can be done without affecting gas delivery.

 

“We want our customers to know that Line 147 is safe and if a line wasn’t safe we wouldn’t keep it in service,” said spokesman Greg Snapper.

 

San Carlos city staff sprung into action after Oct. 3 when PG&E  shared email exchanges from Nov. 15 to Nov. 17 of 2012  that call into question the safety of Line 147 which cuts west to east through San Carlos roughly parallel with Brittan Avenue. The emails, from an unnamed PG&E employee with gas transmission expertise, stated the utility was concerned about the specific pipeline which dates from 1929 and in 2011 tested to only 1.5 times the maximum allowable operating pressure, according to the city resolution.

 

The employee also noted a thin wall pipe with external corrosion that caused a leak in October 2012 needed repair. The employee also questioned if hydrostatic testing in 2011 caused more cracking and “activated a threat of failure.”

 

The city’s emergency declaration said the employee raised “a horrifyingly real fear” that people in San Carlos might be “sitting on a San Bruno situation.”

 

The information came to San Carlos after PG&E on July 3 gave the CPUC documents that corrected previous records about Line 147’s safety at high pressure operations and contradicted its earlier assurances.

 

Snapper said PG&E is glad when employees ask these important questions and that it led to testing by a third party.

 

Local state and federal politicians immediately joined San Carlos’ call for action. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said the utility engineer’s concerns about the pipeline cracking as a result of the test should be reason alone to turn it off but added the withholding of the information from the city is another.

 

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, also chimed in.

 

“Given the San Bruno tragedy, PG&E  should err on the side of caution and shut down Line 147 immediately until it can assure the public that the line is 100 percent safe,” Mullin said.

 

Anyone who detects the smell of gas should contact PG&E’s emergency service center at 1-800-743-5000.

 

michelle@smdailyjournal.com

 

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

###

On September 7, 2013 there were no less than 32 calls made to our local fire departments up and down the peninsula with complaints of gas smell. We had over 10 neighbors comment on Everything South City asking if others were smelling the gas leaks and if any information was available. Those folks did not contact SSFFD or PGE which means there were many more smelling the gas than who reported it.

 

We have contacted PGE asking what the problem was on that day and if it had been resolved. To date PGE has not responded to our requests for information. Below are the addresses taken from Firedispatch on September 7, 2013. When PGE has done venting in different areas they have contacted city department heads and those in the area in advance. There were no alerts sent out for September 7th.

On Sept 7, 2013 Firedispatch had these addresses listed for investigation of gas smells. PGE would not reply to our inquiries as to the source of these problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 7 odor investigations per Firedispatch

Pipeline as it runs near Miller Ave SSF

Pipeline as it runs near Miller Ave SSF

Green lines are gas lines, the red line is liquid fuel

Green lines are gas lines, the red line is liquid fuel

Green lines are gas lines, the red line is liquid fuel

Green lines are gas lines, the red line is liquid fuel

SSF Green lines are gas lines, the red line is liquid fuel

SSF Green lines are gas lines, the red line is liquid fuel

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