PUC fines PG&E $14.35 million over pipeline records delay

A state agency levied a $14.35 million fine against PG&E on Thursday, saying the utility failed to promptly notify the state about incorrect records related to a natural-gas pipeline that runs under San Carlos.

The fine includes penalties of $50,000 per day for the 229 days — for a total of $11.45 million — that the California Public Utilities Commission says was the delay in PG&E correcting paperwork related to pipeline 147 in San Carlos. The fine also includes a $2.9 million penalty for “submitting a misleadingly titled and factually incomplete document,” the commission said in a statement.

“This penalty is designed to serve as a deterrent to similar behavior in the future,” Commissioner Mark J. Ferron, the author of the decision, said in a statement. “This fine sends a strong signal to PG&E, and to all of the utilities that we regulate, that delay and obfuscation will not be tolerated.”

PG&E called the fine “excessive” in a statement.

“We acknowledge our communication efforts fell short of expectations in this instance and we are committed to improving the way that we communicate with the CPUC to meet the commission’s expectations for the timely flow of information in every instance,” the utility said.

PG&E said the delay in the paperwork was due to determining the correct pressure under which the utility could operate the pipeline “in light of newly discovered pipe specifications and applicable state and federal regulations.”

The levying of the fine comes after a long discussion about the safety of the pipeline, including an order by an administrative judge for PG&E to reduce the pressure in the segment.

An administrative judge had recommended a fine for PG&E of $6.75 million, while Ferron drafted a proposal that called for a fine of $17.25 million. On Thursday, the CPUC also voted to allow PG&E to operate the 3.8-mile segment of pipeline at full pressure, which PG&E said will help its service and other repairs.

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