For the second time this year, PG&E has been certified as a best-in-class gas-system operator by an audit requested by the San Francisco-based utility giant.
But some affected by a deadly explosion in San Bruno that occurred when a PG&E natural-gas pipeline burst in 2010 are questioning whether the utility is being too quick to tout its improvements.
PG&E announced this week it has been recognized again by Lloyd's Register for improvements to its gas operations following the company's original qualification as a best-in-class gas-system operator in May. Lloyd's Register is an international global engineering, technical and business-services organization owned by a United Kingdom-based foundation that researches and educates in science and engineering.
The review, which PG&E asked for, sought to independently recognize the company's progression as it strives to become “the safest and most reliable gas system in the country,” said Donald Cutler, a PG&E spokesman.
As part of its audit, Lloyd's Register traveled across PG&E's service area to review safety practices, information and risk management policies, employee qualifications, emergency response protocols and other areas of asset management. The recertification process occurred during the week of Nov. 3 and involved site visits, internal reviews and employee interviews.
PG&E has taken specific safety-related measures since 2011, including replacing 117 miles of pipeline and upgrading 201 miles of pipeline, Cutler noted. The company has committed $2.7 billion for safety-related work, he said.
Additionally, PG&E has launched leak-detection technology that is 1,000 times more sensitive than previous methods and is what the company used after the magnitude-6.0 Napa earthquake in August to detect smaller gas leaks that otherwise might have gone unnoticed, Cutler said.
However, San Bruno, where a gas pipeline ruptured in the Crestmoor neighborhood on Sept. 9, 2010, killing eight residents, is not convinced that such improvements could prevent another deadly explosion from happening.
“PG&E has still not yet completed the improvements that would give us the confidence and the comfort that something like what happened here … would be highly likely not to happen somewhere else,” said Connie Jackson, city manager of San Bruno.
What San Bruno wants to see is documentation that PG&E “knows what they have in the ground, particularly as it relates to high-pressure transmission lines,” Jackson said.
Carolyn Gray, whose home of 42 years was just 400 feet from the burst pipeline and was destroyed in the subsequent blaze, said she doesn't think PG&E should commend itself for safety improvements.
“I don't think any of it is good will on their part,” Gray said of the pipeline upgrades.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who has introduced more than a dozen bills related to the explosion and pipeline safety, told The San Francisco Examiner that he credits PG&E with trying to improve its system.
“I do believe they want to do the right thing, and this is an example of them putting those procedures in place,” Hill said.
Asked if PG&E has become a safer system since the 2010 blast, Hill said, “They're doing the paperwork right, [and] their procedures are in place to make them a safer system, but we will never know until they are tested again.”