Posted on December 22, 2011

Progress Made in Fulfilling NTSB Recommendations

By David Kligman

PG&E President Chris Johns said Thursday (Dec. 22) that the utility has made progress toward fulfilling the recommendations outlined by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in response to the September 2010 San Bruno pipeline accident.

Milbrae shutoff valve

PG&E has already taken many actions to address NTSB recommendations, including the installation of automated shutoff valves like this one in Millbrae. (Photo by David Kligman.)

Since the accident, PG&E has focused on modernizing its operations and has introduced new management to lead the effort. The NTSB announced its recommendations in September after a yearlong investigation into the San Bruno accident.

In a letter sent to NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, Johns said PG&E recognizes “the importance of preventing a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

He added that the utility is grateful for the agency’s recommendations, which are in line with and have helped guide PG&E’s actions toward improving the safety of its systems and building what will become an industry model for gas operations.

“PG&E is determined to learn everything we can from the San Bruno accident,” Johns said. “The actions we’re taking to fundamentally change our gas operations are consistent with and fully incorporate the NTSB’s recommendations.”

Although there is much work to be done, PG&E has already taken many actions to address the NTSB’s concerns, including:

  • Verifying the maximum allowable operating pressure on more than 1,600 miles of natural gas pipelines, with plans to complete all 2,000 miles by the end of January
  • Automating 11 shutoff valves (several hundred more are planned through 2014)
  • Conducting hydrostatic pressure testing of more than 160 miles of gas transmission pipeline (547 more miles of testing is planned through 2014)
  • Updating its emergency response plan to reflect industry best practices
  • Implementing data management systems intended to ensure its pipeline records are traceable, verifiable and complete
  • Mailed more than 2 million safety information letters to customers who live within 2,000 feet of a transmission pipeline

PG&E’s Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan, which was submitted this year for approval to the California Public Utilities Commission, details many of the improvements under way or planned over the next few years. The plan incorporates and goes beyond the NTSB’s recommendations, also calling for continued pipeline replacement and retrofits.

Johns said regaining the trust of the public and regulators is of paramount concern.

“PG&E’s pledge to our customers and all of our stakeholders is that we will tirelessly pursue safety and reliability, and we’ll do it with integrity and accountability,” he said.

More information on the actions PG&E is taking to improve the safety of its gas system can be found in PG&E’s Integrated San Bruno Response Plan at http://www.pge.com/myhome/edusafety/systemworks/gas/overview/.

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