California’s Largest Utility Allegedly Falsified Safety Records After A Major Pipeline Explosion

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Regulators are accusing one of California’s largest public utilities of falsifying safety data records shortly after the utility company was fined millions of dollars for a massive natural gas explosion in San Francisco.

A California Public Utilities Commission investigation found that the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) lacked enough employees to fulfill requests to document natural gas pipelines. PG&E pushed supervisors to complete the work, leading staff to falsify data from 2012 to 2017.

“Utility falsification of safety related records is a serious violation of law and diminishes our trust in the utility’s reports on their progress,” commission President Michael Picker noted in a statement Friday. “These findings are another example of why we are investigating PG&E’s safety culture.”

The company, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, claims it now has enough employees to effectively document pipelines throughout the state. (RELATED: FEDS Reduce Fines For Pipeline Explosion From $562 Million To $6 Million)

“We’re committed to accurate and thorough reporting and record-keeping, and we didn’t live up to that commitment in this case,” utility spokesman Matt Nauman said in a statement.

FILE PHOTO: A firefighter battles the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. The fire destroyed dozens of structures, forced thousands of evacuations and closed a major freeway. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

The utility was fined $3 million after it was convicted of six felony charges for not properly maintaining a natural gas pipeline that exploded in 2010. Regulators also fined PG&E $1.6 billion for the blast, which killed eight people and wiped out an entire neighborhood in San Bruno.

California’s public utility commission gave the evidence to a judge, who will hear testimony on the findings and allow PG&E to provide its side of the story. The company has come under intense scrutiny recently following a series of wildfires outbreaks in November that leveled a small Northern California town.

Three major fires – the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire, and Hill Fire – scorched more than 200,000 acres, or roughly 300 square miles, mostly in Northern California. Hundreds of thousands of Californians were forced to evacuate, including 160,000 from the Los Angeles-area where the Woolsey Fire and smaller Hill Fire burned.

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