By Jeffrey Schaub

SAN CARLOS (KCBS) – State regulators have fined Pacific Gas and Electric $14.3 million over poor recordkeeping on a leaky pipeline in San Carlos.

The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to impose the maximum penalty on PG&E over conditions on Pipeline 147 that some fear could have turned into a repeat of the deadly 2010 explosion in San Bruno.

“They for years did not know what they had in the ground, and may not have been maintaining it and inspecting it correctly,” said San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said.

San Bruno has joined San Carlos in demanding that the CPUC punish PG&E for what officials in both cities see as a pattern of concealing flaws in its pipeline network.

“For three and a half years now, the city of San Bruno has stayed on this precisely because we have discovered, with appalling frequency, serious deficiencies in record keeping, maintenance, overall integrity of the system,” Jackson said.

PG&E was allowed to increase pressure on the San Carlos pipeline after claiming in 2011 that it was seamless and safe, only to have it spring a leak the following year.

And it was not until this year that the utility finally admitted that Line 147 was, in fact, an old, welded pipe, something not reflected in its records.

PG&E insists it’s improved both its inspections and record-keeping after spending billions to fix gas lines and bring its records up to date.  “We believe the fine itself is excessive, but we do know that there are better opportunities for communication between the commission and between the cities and counties that we serve,” said PG&E spokesperson Brittany Chord.

But Jackson fears there are more pipelines like the ones in San Bruno and San Carlos.

“As many as 20 percent of PG&E’s pipelines, the pipeline features as they exist in the ground, don’t match the records in the files,” she said.

“We’re very, very concerned. We do not believe that these improvements that have been made are sufficient to ensure public safety or public confidence in either PG&E or the CPUC.”

The originally proposed fine amount of $17 million was recalculated because regulators later found that PG&E was out of compliance with the CPUC’s record keeping requirements for a shorter period than originally estimated.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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