Days after the San Mateo County Superior Court ordered a PG&E transmission pipeline shut down in San Carlos, Belmont’s city manager requested and received a work and safety update regarding the state of PG&E’s infrastructure.
The results were conclusive. The utility company stated that its gas transmission and distribution lines running underneath Belmont have been recently inspected and are up to code, according to emails from PG&E.
Included in the request was a complete review of all testing and safety inspections completed by PG&E on the company-owned and -operated pipeline within Belmont’s city limits. The distribution and transmission lines located beneath the city comply with current regulations, a PG&E spokesman said.
The 3.8-mile San Carlos pipeline was ordered shut down after the disclosure of internal PG&E emails raised concerns about the safety of the line last year.
But the request for testing and safety data wasn’t related to the recent San Carlos pipeline shutdown, said Belmont City Manager Greg Scoles. The city has been in “constant communication” with PG&E since a 2010 explosion caused by a leak in another of the utility’s pipelines in San Bruno, he said. The blast and resulting fire killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
The PG&E lines in Belmont are currently up to the California Public Utility Commission’s safety standards, according to Scoles.
“We’ve got a good relationship,” Scoles said. “They let us know when they’re doing testing in our city.”
According to Scoles, PG&E also maintains open channels when it comes to informing the city of where the pipelines are located and where they’re being tested. Such information is especially important for construction and development projects, he said.
The issue in San Carlos prompted additional scrutiny, however, Scoles said, noting that ultimately, the CPUC is responsible for regulating the market and ensuring the lines’ compliance with public safety standards.
The email to Scoles outlined three main PG&E pipelines that run through Belmont. One transmission line extends along U.S. Highway 101 — connected to the line in San Bruno — while the two other pipelines run along an area west of Highway 101 and underneath Ralston Road for about 1.8 miles.
All three lines comply with current regulatory guidelines, according to PG&E spokesman Jason King.
One thing seems clear: cities are among the last to know about the results from regulatory bodies, Scoles said.
“The regulator is the PUC; we don’t directly get the test results as they happen,” Scoles said, adding that Belmont tries to ensure that the information provided is accurate.
“It’s a trust and verify type of thing,” he said.
About a third of the pipeline in Belmont — along Highway 101 — is a transmission line, similar to the line that ruptured in San Bruno.