PG&E Releases List of Pipelines at Risk

Public Outcry and Pressure from Officials Results in List

Due to pressure from state regulators and public outcry, PG&E released its list of top 100 priority projects in Northern and Central California on Monday, September 20, 2010. Interestingly enough, the segment of 30-inch pipe that exploded in the San Bruno gas explosion was not on the list. Additionally, the list did not include a segment of the same pipeline to the North in South San Francisco that PG&E identified as a top priority in 2009. Although state regulators approved $4.87 million in 2008 for repairs to the line in question, PG&E spent the money on other projects only to ask the state for an additional $5 million in 2009 to complete the project. To date, however, work has not started on the project.

Corrosion Problems in the San Bruno Gas Explosion?

While state and federal officials have yet to identify a definitive cause for the San Bruno gas explosion that killed 4 people and destroyed as many as 37 homes, pipe corrosion as a likely culprit is a growing concern. If the pipe that exploded was weakened by corrosion, several questions arise: How many other neighborhoods are at risk from corroded pipes? Why didn’t PG&E act sooner if they knew they had a potential problem? Why weren’t funds allocated for repairs spent on intended projects and upgrades?

Direct Assessment – A Failed Method for Maintaining Gas Pipelines?

Part of the problem may be due to the method used by PG&E to assess the safety of its gas pipelines. PG&E uses a “direct assessment” technique to create an electronic mapping of a pipeline. When testing for problems, an electric current is sent through a pipeline while utility workers walk along the segment in question inserting in the ground above it sensors that look like ski poles. Theoretically, if the pipeline is in good shape, the sensors will register an electric signal. If a weakened signal is registered, corrosion is likely the cause, indicating the need to investigate further the integrity of the pipe being tested.

Safety experts and consultants have raised a number of concerns regarding the “direct assessment” method used by PG&E to test its pipelines. For instance, direct assessment and electronic mapping can only test for corrosion in those areas where poles can reach. Secondly, other things like stress and pressure can weaken pipes. In fact, Jim Hall, a former NTSB chairman, has said the method is too unreliable for identifying stress and pressure fractures and should not be used in high-density, urban areas.

Negligence on PG&E’s Part? What should have been done Differently?

As more light is shed on what PG&E did – and failed to do – questions are beginning to emerge as to whether or not they could have prevented the San Bruno gas explosion. Failure to implement best practices, allocate money for needed repairs and upgrades, or prioritize issues when people complained of smelling gas suggests PG&E may have acted negligently. As evidenced by their initial unwillingness to release their list of top priorities, PG&E and their attorneys may not be willing to share information with you or your insurer. Working with an experienced utility and personal injury attorney can ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Contact San Bruno Gas Explosion Attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg

At Weber & Nierenberg, we have represented numerous clients in cases involving burn injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning. We understand the issues involved when dealing with negligence on the part of a public utility – especially involving natural gas. For more information regarding our practice or to speak with one of our attorneys for a free consultation, call San Bruno gas explosion attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg at 415-788-3900 or toll free at1-866-288-6010 today. If you prefer, you can email us and a we will contact you

Suspected Section of Pipe in San Bruno Fire Known to be a Problem

Update on the San Bruno Natural Gas Explosion

New information in the San Bruno natural gas explosion that killed 4, left 3 missing, and injured others indicates the section of pipe that exploded was part of a line that ranked in the top 100 “highest risk line sections.” In fact, three years ago PG&E asked state regulators for permission to spend $4.87 million in order to replace a portion of pipe in South San Francisco that is part of the same line that exploded in San Bruno. Additionally, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, it was learned that last year, PG&E suggested upgrading a portion of the same line 8 miles south of where it exploded in San Bruno. At a cost of $13 million, PG&E wanted to upgrade the line along 32 miles of pipe, all the way to the south to Milpitas.

Upgrading the Gas Line – An Important Project Moved Down the List

Needless to say, neither project was started or completed. In fact, the South San Francisco project was moved down the list of priorities and the money allocated elsewhere. Currently, the project slated to upgrade the line to the south down to Milpitas is still waiting for approval by state regulators. As a result of last week’s explosion has led some critics of PG&E to wonder if the San Bruno explosion could have been avoided had either of these projects gone forward.

Although Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, indicated the section of pipe that exploded was not “piggable” – that is, it was too narrow to allow camera and inspection equipment to be used on it – others have wondered whether or not other problems could have still been discovered. Mike Florio, a senior staff attorney for The Utility Reform Network, suggested if the work had been done problems might have been uncovered on the ageing gas pipeline. In fact, PG&E wanted to install new valves and make a number of upgrades along the pipeline in question so a pig could be used to inspect the safety of the line in the future.

Liability and Foreknowledge – Tough Questions for PG&E

While more information continues to come to light, PG&E may have had foreknowledge of certain dangers associated with the gas line that exploded, increasing their liability for the disaster. If they knew of certain kinds of dangers and hazards and did not act to remove them, they could be held liable for a failing to act on their duty of care towards homeowners in the area. In the case of the explosion, even though PG&E did not directly cause it by striking a line, they failed to act on their foreknowledge of dangers associated with the explosion. As a result, their failure to remove these dangers may constitute negligence on their part.

Contact San Bruno Gas Explosion Attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg

As investigators continue to determine what happened and why, it’s important to have an experienced team of personal injury attorneys who can protect your rights and interests in any discussions with insurance companies, investigators, or other lawyers. At Weber & Nierenberg we have represented numerous clients in cases involving carbon monoxide poisoning and burn injuries. We understand the issues involved when dealing with negligence on the part of a public utility – especially involving natural gas.

For more information regarding our practice or to speak with one of our attorneys for a free consultation, call San Bruno gas explosion attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg at 415-788-3900 today or email us and we will respond shortly.

 
 
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