PG&E's efforts were so scattered and disorganized before the September 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that it was nearly impossible to properly check the location or existence of its pipeline records, according to two reports state regulators released on Monday.
The reports concluded that before Line 132 ruptured in the Crestmoor neighborhood, PG&E could have identified problems with its recordkeeping issues, but it failed to keep and maintain information needed to promote gas pipeline safety.
Consultants for the consumer safety arm of the California Public Utilities Commission, who put together the report, said PG&E's failures included misplacing records on the locations of re-used pipe that was in service, not knowing the conditions of leaks or pipeline pressure information, and not having other information critical to pipeline safety.
The CPUC's investigation into PG&E's records was prompted by the National Transporation Safety Board's findings following the disaster that PG&E lacked accurate records of the maximum operating pressure on the pipeline that exploded. PG&E was then required to check similar vintage pipes in its system with high-pressure water testing.
"It was garbage in, garbage out. Their record-keeping was garbage, so how could they make decisions ... to evaluate your gas transmission system?" Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, told the Contra Costa Times.
Among the findings: The segment that exploded in September 2010 would never have been installed by crews in the 1950s if PG&E had better records at the time because it would have been clearly substandard. Instead, the reused pipe had been wrapped and crews could not see its defects.
The reports released Monday make no recommendations on fines, but one of the reports suggested ratepayers should not have to pay $223 million to improve record keeping, as PG&E has requested.
In response to the reports, Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's executive vice president of gas operations, said the company has acknowledged its need to improve the way it keeps records of its natural gas system.
He noted that last year PG&E collected, scanned and computerized more than 2.5 million paper documents into electronic files going back more than 50 years.
"We have already started learning from the investigation into our past record keeping and have taken huge steps forward," Stavropoulos said in a statement. "We’re ensuring that we have complete, accurate data organized with the industry’s best data management tools."