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California’s largest utility now accused of falsifying safety records

21 December 2018

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), which is facing possible bankruptcy over its role in the devastating fires that swept across California in 2017 and 2018, has been accused by California regulators of violating safety documentation rules relating to its gas pipelines following the San Bruno explosion in 2010. This killed eight people and wiped out an entire neighbourhood in the San Francisco suburbs.

The San Bruno explosion in 2010 killed eight people - Shutterstock
The San Bruno explosion in 2010 killed eight people - Shutterstock

A California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) investigation found that the utility lacked enough employees to fulfill requests to document natural gas pipelines. PG&E pushed supervisors to complete the work, leading staff to falsify data from 2012 to 2017.

The utility was fined over $1.6 billion for the blast and for not properly maintaining the gas pipeline that exploded in San Bruno.

PUC President Michael Picker said in a statement on December 14 that the new findings were another example of why regulators were investigating PG&E’s safety culture.

The Commission gave the evidence to a judge who will hear testimony on the findings and allow PG&E to provide its side of the story, although the utility admits there were failings. The company has come under intense scrutiny recently following a series of wildfires.

In November 2018, three major fires – the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire, and Hill Fire – scorched roughly 300 square miles (775 sq. km.), mostly in Northern California. Some 88 were killed, dozens are still missing and hundreds of thousands of Californians were forced to evacuate.


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