News

PG&E fined $16.7 million for failed Contra Costa County gas line survey

'Penalty this extreme for being open, transparent, accountable disappointing,' utility's executive says

The California Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E more than $16 million Friday for failing to conduct gas pipeline leak surveys on a stretch of pipeline in Contra Costa County.

PG&E said it was "surprised" by the $16.7 million fine, since the utility self-reported the problem to the state regulatory agency in December and has taken steps to survey the 14 miles of affected pipeline and repair the 22 leaks that were subsequently discovered on them.

"To receive a penalty this extreme for being open, transparent and accountable is disappointing," said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's executive vice president of gas operations. "In fact, members of the commission recently applauded the work our team did and the company's recognition of the employees who came forward."

PG&E apparently failed to conduct regular leak surveys of the affected pipelines because the utility's maps were not updated to accurately

reflect new construction. While some of the new construction occurred within the past five years, in other places the violations date back to 1993, according to the CPUC citation.

"Because of the duration and seriousness of the violation and the numerous opportunities PG&E had to find these problems earlier, we concluded

that a citation was warranted," said Michelle Cooke, interim director of the CPUC's Consumer Protection and Safety Division.

Friday's citation is the first under a new program authorizing CPUC staff to issue fines without the approval of the commission. The citation program, approved in December, is one of a number of changes the agency has made in response to the September 2010 San Bruno pipeline

explosion, which killed eight people, injured scores of others and destroyed dozens of homes.

PG&E has 10 days to either pay the fine with shareholder dollars or submit an appeal. The utility is reviewing the citation and fine to determine whether to appeal, spokesman Brian Swanson said.

Erika Heidecker, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 31, 2012 at 6:21 am

PG&E fined!!! Who pays? Yes you got it right, consumers in the end!!!!
The real basic question is: Where were the members of the board of the Utility Commission who were TO PROTECT the consumer? Can they be fined????

Of course not!!! They serve with immunity!!!!! Can you believe this??? As gross a negligence to which PG&E has been found and fined for, why not the members of the Commission who allowed it by not doing their expressed purpose?????
This Commission has allowed way too much hide behind distance, Sacramento, little in the way of public information provided on a regular bases to consumers as to what they approve and permit or ignore which eventually happens to the consumers as did in the San Bruno explosion with many deaths!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Does their lack of due diligence NOT bother you the consumer??? Demand that they be INDICTED AND FINED as well!!!!!!


Commission members willingly accept this Commissions seat? WHY??? To ignore the consumer directly?? Of course not, but the path to those seats leads most humans down the road to power peddling, rubbing shoulders with the powers that be, enjoying many bills paid by consumers for their life on the Commission!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2012 at 9:12 am

The PUC is utterly worthless, no argument there. But between them and our bought-and-paid-for elected officials, the State of CA does have the authority to mandate that fines be paid from profits. The SF Chronicle has featured stories since San Bruno about this almost every week, with all the details about how to make PG&E really hurt. All we need is some pol's with actual morals to make it happen. Government mandated monopolies are never good, be it a utility or the likes of Haliburton.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lynda
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Serious question - if this is a fine for past infractions that have since been corrected, where does all that money go? Since it's likely to eventually come out of our pockets, I'd like to know what it's being used to pay for.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Farmer Dave
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Farmer Dave is a registered user.

@frankly:

Before you get all indignant with superfluous exclamation points, read the article again. It clearly states "PG&E has 10 days to either pay the fine with SHAREHOLDER DOLLARS or submit an appeal."

The fine is precisely to PROTECT consumers and everyone else in the community from PG&E's poorly maintained gas lines. Now that the CPUC has PG&E's attention, perhaps they will perform maintenance the way they were ordered to and avoid future fines.

Or maybe you forgot about the PG&E pipeline that blew up two years ago in Burlingame, killing eight people and destroying several homes?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 1, 2012 at 6:31 am

@farmer dave

you got that right; killed eight persons, destroyed violently many homes and totally disrupted many lives due to total negligence from PG&E officials as well as the members of that useless Utility Commission which didnt do due diligence in protecting taxpayers.

So apparently it is ok to totally ignore one's DUTY to protect before hand and then pay a BIG FINE due to negligence because this fine is protecting people who pay the taxes?


This is like the farm industry spraying heavy toxic anything and wait for the BIG FINE for the many deaths which would develop from the toxic spray which has been outlawed. When fined, it is the protective act of agencies doing their job and this illegal toxic spraying is ok TILL CAUGHT!!!!!!!

NO MATTER who gets fined, taxed, charged, THAT COST IS ALWAYS PASSED ALONG TO NO OTHER THEN PEOPLE at the street level.

No CEO willingly says, hey dont bill the folks, I WILL PAY THE WHOLE BILL!!!!

Yea, right I love winged horse to float in my backyard also!!!!



 +   Like this comment
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 1, 2012 at 7:25 am

In today's SR Valley Times, editorial heavy condemns the President of the PUC Board for not performing his job and demanding that he resign.

Take a look and decide for yourself and then ask How much money do those highly incompetent people fleece the public during any one year?

Demand that your local rep also act to get rid of incompetents or get rid of them!!!!

The current President of this Board has sat for enough time for any governmental rep to know how wrong it is that they remain!!!!!!!!!!!

Now do you part and get rid of any who dont want to disturb the manure pile at the state capitol.

Dont you WHO CONTINUALLY PAYS THE BILL deserve better??????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Feb 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Michael Peevey, I believe, is the one in charge of the PG&E review at the PUC. And he is as worthless as humans get. But the people in charge at both the utility and the PUC are shielded from prosecution. The fines do not hurt them much personally. A manager at PG&E may see his/her stock fall, but they will still receive the same huge bonuses and retirement packages.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:20 am

Below is statement from the consumer agency TURN:

from a public statement dated Feb.01, 2012;

PG&E can turn anything into profits - even the fatal San Bruno explosion. PG&E's proposed pipeline safety improvement plan would cost customers close to $2 billion, and allow PG&E to "earn" a billion more in profits, also paid for by customers, for years to come. TURN wants safety improvements to come out of profits, not rates.

In the days immediately following the fatal, avoidable explosion in San Bruno, TURN was the first to reveal that PG&E had failed to fix the very same line that exploded even after receiving ratepayer money to do so. Now even the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) admits that under its watch, PG&E underspent on safety while reaping windfall returns on gas investments. Just as TURN suspected, PG&E was putting profits before people, minimizing its expenses while maximizing profits regardless of the risk to customers.

Who sees no profit for PGE in the future?


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