California Public Utilities Commission set to vote on PG&E pipeline safety plan

Getty Images File PhotoThe California Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote Thursday on whether to approve the proposed PG&E safety plan.

Getty Images File PhotoThe California Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote Thursday on whether to approve the proposed PG&E safety plan.

A long-awaited plan to improve PG&E’s pipeline safety testing is set to be approved by state regulators Thursday.

The company developed the enhanced safety guidelines after the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight residents and destroyed dozens of homes. PG&E’s proposal includes strength testing on 780 miles of pipeline, replacing 185 miles of pipeline segments and automating 228 valves. Recording instruments also would be inserted into an additional 199 miles of pipeline to evaluate performance.

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote Thursday on whether to approve the safety plan, more than a year after it was first introduced. Staff members at the CPUC have recommended approval.

Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for utility watchdog group TURN, said the safety plan proposed by PG&E is acceptable so long as the company does not pass any rate increases on to its customers to fund implementation. The company has insisted that it will not do that, although Spatt said she is skeptical.

PG&E received intense scrutiny regarding its lax safety testing guidelines in the wake of the San Bruno incident. The company admitted to negligence in its testing of the pipeline that exploded there. It has been hit with a slew of personal lawsuits and could face fines from state regulators totaling anywhere from $200 million to $2.5 billion.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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