Judge proposes $6.75M fine against PG&E for delaying, mischaracterizing pipeline record correction

A state administrative law judge Wednesday proposed a $6.75 million fine against PG&E for delaying and mischaracterizing the correction of a significant error in its pipeline record-keeping.

The error concerned Line 147, a 3.8-mile pipeline that runs beneath Brittan Avenue in San Carlos.

California Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey said in the proposed decision that PG&E discovered in October 2012 that the pipeline contained arc welds instead of being seamless, but did not publicly file a correction with the commission until July.

PG&E completed an internal investigation in March. When the utility finally did submit the July filing, it called the error “errata,” a word usually used for minor mistakes.

Bushey wrote, “The errors discovered included pipeline incorrectly recorded as seamless, a fact pattern distressingly similar to San Bruno.

“It is not credible that PG&E’s engineers and executives did not recognize the provocative nature of these facts in light of the intense public interest in natural gas pipeline safety,” Bushey wrote.

She wrote that, “Submitting information of on-going recordkeeping errors in a routine-appearing document could be seen as an attempt to mislead the commission and the public on the significance of the new information.”

The proposal will go before the commission Dec. 5 or later for a decision. PG&E and other parties will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed fine until late November.

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