California Public Utilities Commission Launches Investigation of Gas Pipeline Safety

Our San Diego injury lawyer was encourages to read that the California Public Utilities Commission is showing that it takes threats to California consumer safety seriously this week with the announcement that it will investigate allegations of wrongdoing by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (“PG&E”). PG&E is responsible for building and maintaining a large portion of the state’s pipelines that deliver gas to homes and businesses. The investigation comes on the heels of reports filed by two PG&E welders, Marshall Worland and Mike Mikich, both of whom claim that PG&E has violated safety protocols and failed to properly make necessary repairs to existing lines.

According to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, Worland and Mikich have cited many problems with gas pipelines throughout the state. For example, they have said that many of the state’s older gas transmission lines are plagued by rust and corrosion and are in need of repair or replacement. In addition, Worland and Mikich assert that during the re-installation of pipelines that had been tested for strength using high-pressure water tests, no workers were assigned to inspect the welding and ensure that it was being done properly. The welders say they have personally observed substandard welding work that they claim may make large portions of the gas pipelines extremely dangerous. explosion.jpg

If the welding is not done correctly, of course, the structural integrity of the pipelines will be compromised, and there can be devastating consequences. In fact, part of the reason for concern with the quality and safety of PG&E pipelines stems from an explosion that occurred in September of 2010 when a gas transmission line blew up in a residential area. Eight people were killed, and more than three dozen homes were destroyed in the blast. Since then, PG&E has been under more and more scrutiny, and with the welders’ recent allegations, that scrutiny is only increasing.

The Commission’s investigation will look at safety practices within PG&E and whether they can be improved. Commission staff will also be conducting random inspections and testing of certain portions of the gas lines in order to determine whether there are any widespread problems with the lines. They will also be looking at results of testing that were previously conducted by PG&E to ensure that those test results fall within the standards of safety within the industry. The Commission hopes that by taking action now it can help to prevent any California gas explosion injuries in the future.

PG&E appears to be cooperating with the investigation, and a spokesman has said that the company will be working with the Commission to get to the bottom of the welders’ claims. The company maintains that they have conducted extensive testing and that, once revealed to the Commission, that testing will demonstrate that all required safety standards have been met. The San Diego injury attorney at our firm hopes that will turn out to be the case, but, either way, it is always good to ensure that dangerous industries are subject to the proper amount of scrutiny.

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(Photo courtesy of Focal Intent)

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