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PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development
11

PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
"Federal prosecutors allege that PG&E knowingly relied on erroneous and incomplete information when assessing the safety of the pipeline that eventually ruptured, sparked a fireball and leveled 38 homes in San Bruno."

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/04/01/pge-ch...

Eight were burned alive......

Many on these engineering fora stated that this was an act of God........ or a risk one willingly assumes when buying property.

http://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=281116

The Feds think differently...... as do I

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

It sounds like you are happy that the Feds have decided to punish someone. This administration has a very strong track record of obstructing activities that would have ameliorated a problem and then levying fines when the inevitable happens. So far the office of pipeline safety has been about as effective at increasing pipeline safety as the 9/11 terrorists were at urban renewal, but they can always find someone to fine, sue, or charge with a felony. That department is all about making sure that someone other than regulators is blamed for everything.

The pipe failure and subsequent fire/explosion was a horrible event. The results were devastating. There is plenty of blame to share. How about charging the regulator who claimed that shutting the line down to reevaluate its MAWP would cause unreasonable disruption in service? How about the e-NGO's that blocked every alternative route to replace it?

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

One of ths accusations was that the weld defect/flaw would be readily detectable when the pipeline was installed. That accusation is patently absurd based on the state of the art of welded pipe examination at that time. While I can fault PG&E for the calamity, especially when they originally stated the pipe was seamless and later when they indicated that they could not inspect the line with a smart pig due to geometry. They could have devised other methods of investigation when considering age, exposure to earthquakes and increased traffic and building.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

I saw that in the charges and wondered too.

I also wondered what the purpose of the suit really is. The normal purpose of a felony indictment is to punish somebody with either fines or jail time. Fines will be paid out of their reserve for claims account which doesn't impact the company's current income. There were zero human beings named in the suit so jail is off the table (I suppose you could put the corporate logo in a cell, but I doubt if it would mind). The only purpose I can see is to establish a record so more people could sue them. This case makes no sense.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

PG&E accepted the decision not to inspect, for whatever reason, and continued to operate (and to make money). If they felt they Had to inspect the pipeline for safety they had options ...
1) appeal to a higher authority
2) go public and cry "for safety's sake ..."
3) shutdown the line "by accident" but i suspet this'd get them penalties
4) resign from their license to distribute gas along the pipeline.

anyways, now we've had the accident, i'm sure the bureaucrats will be more carful next time ...

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Quote (zdas04)


There were zero human beings named in the suit so jail is off the table...

Well it appears that the five conservative Supreme Court Justices, in their 2010 'Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission' ruling, may be saying that corporations are people, or was that limited to only when a corporation wants to donate money to a political campaign? I mean, can they now invoke the 5th Amendment when being asked for information about their behavior in something like this?

Like one political commentary said, "I won't believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one."

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

John,
I couldn't agree more. Citizen's United was as bone-headed a ruling as a corrupt court could possibly hand down. The indictment in this case is right up there with it. A corporation cannot do any of the things that they have been accused of--people did or did not do those things. Maybe if PG&E loses the case, the next step will be to use that ruling to indict the people who signed off on the decisions? Seems like it would have used fewer of the taxpayer's dollars to skip a step, but the Federal Government Sees All, Knows All.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Sounds to me that the news people have gotten a hold of some bad information and ran with it (there usual mode of operation).

I am sure there was a reason the pipe could not be inspected, but it sounds like there are too many things that have been said. The truth is out there.

But it is true that regulators are not charged for there mistakes. Like the kid that blames everyone else for there actions.

There is a money issue here somewhere.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

2
(OP)
zdas04:

"It sounds like you are happy that the Feds have decided to punish someone."

No,..... I am glad that the feds will be starting a criminal investigation involving the corporate people whose job it is to ensure public safety. If our legal system does not have any teeth, and we all decide that "there is plenty of blame to go around" and that this somehow was an act of God, more will die.... more will be burned to death in the future.

The ancient gas system was being operated at or above its design pressure

If it is determined that we must inspect/replace all piping over 50 years old....then lets do it

If its determined that the money sucking CA real estate agents should have never sold houses in that location....then lets correct it

I do not feel in any way sorry for a corporation that was running a 50-year old, poorly welded and never inspected piping system and then does not want to take responsibility for accidents.

The operating pressure for that segment of the gas system was quickly dropped after the accident.... Why do you think that action was taken ?

Zdas, since the San Bruno explosion, what regulatory changes are now in place to prevent a similar accident in California or any other US state ?

Don't you think that it is time to send corporate America a message ?....

I WANT JUSTICE.....


MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

weldstan - you wouldn't have noticed 6 "pups" field-welded in a row? NTSB also believes the weld defect in the failed pup would have been visible. This wasn't just welded pipe instead of seamless, it was defective welded pipe, installed against the standards of the time.

"The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation found that the rupture of Line 132 was caused by a fracture that originated in the partially welded longitudinal seam of one of six short pipe sections, which are known in the industry as "pups." The fabrication of five of the pups in 1956 would not have met generally accepted industry quality control and welding standards then in effect, indicating that those standards were either overlooked or ignored. The weld defect in the failed pup would have been visible when it was installed"

Are you calling the official NTSB report absurd?

http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/summary/PAR1101...

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

MJCronin,
Nothing about this indictment is going to result in "justice". If that is what you want then you are due for a letdown.

A rational regulatory response to that catastrophe would be a review of the inspection/operations regulations and a review of the zoning regulations to determine: (1) if strict compliance would have prevented or lessened the impact of this event; (2) if it would have, then what state/federal compliance measures need to be corrected to improve the chances of people complying; and (3) if PG&E's actions were within the law, what changes to the law would have prevented the event. But, no. The regulatory response is "who do we blame that is not us".

If the review I suggested turns out that a reasonable person acting in strict compliance with state and federal regulations would not have prevented the failure, then get on with fixing the regulations. If an individual knowingly violated the law then that human being should have been indicted. Indicting PG&E simply enriches lawyers and makes headlines. No justice to be had there.

The changes I've seen to pipeline safety brought about from San Bruno and the El Paso Natural Gas explosion in New Mexico a few years earlier has been very slow, very muddled and pretty weak. Mostly it has been an increase in bureaucracy with few changes in pipeline operation. I've read the new regulations and they are mostly just a change in jurisdiction for the old regulations (with some new, barely comprehensible, diagrams that courts are interpreting in a different way for every case).

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Yes. There once was a failure in a pipeline butt weld which was purposefully made with the bevels such that only a capping pass was made; the two adjacent 45 degree bevels being in intimate contact with each other. It passed the RT of the time (high speed/coarse grain). It also passed the hydrostatic test. One cannot equate today's NDE with that of the 1950's for pipeline construction and hold the then examiners (PG&E) culpable now under today's standards. I have seen numerous weld failures where the standard examination methods implemented were used at the time but proved inadequate.

We routinely made wrinkle bends in pipe lines and I replaced more than a few which cracked. Should one of these fail catastophically, should the company be criminally responsible when that was the standard during the 1940s and 50s and before the imposition of 49 CFR?

By the way, I am absolutely in favor of inspecting our existing, decaying pipeline and transportation infrastructure and repairing or replacing whenever required.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Quote (zdas04)


If an individual knowingly violated the law then that human being should have been indicted.

If this pipe was installed 50 years ago, the likelihood that the person responsible is still around, if he's even still alive, is very remote. What should be done in that case? Does not a corporation bear at least some responsibility for the poor workmanship of it's employees even if they are long retired or deceased?

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Since there were no pipeline regulations when the pipe was laid, it is unlikely that anyone violated any laws 50 years ago. There are current laws that require pipeline operators to do stuff to reduce risk to the public. If this stuff was not done, then someone made the decision not to do it. If records of doing this stuff were falsified then some person made the decision to falsify the records. Going after individuals has the potential to change behaviors. Going after a corporation has the potential to enrich large law firms.

Let's say that PG&E is found guilty of some of the allegations. They can be fined (the fines could have been levied without the lawsuit by the way, but that wouldn't have gotten the publicity) or the court can go with the nuclear option and remove PG&E's right to operate pipelines. That puts one of the largest networks of piping in the country on the block at fire sale prices. The chances that people buying the pipe for pennies on the dollar will do a hugely better job than PG&E has done is vanishingly small. Bottom feeders will buy it. Maintenance will go downhill (yes, there is considerable room for it to go downhill), and there will be other disasters, after which the bottom-feeder companies that own the pipe will be discovered to be shell companies with no assets to seize and all company officers having moved to a non-extradition country. Doesn't sound like justice to me.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
zdas04,

Without teeth in regulation, and the threat of criminal penalties, regulation is meaningless......

People died because a company purposefully and knowingly STRETCHED THE OPERATIONS of an ancient and dangerous system.

They were supposed to be responsible for safety, they were not.

Yes, Zdas, I recognize your deep concern over the possible future sale of PG&E to irresponsible.

I recognize your point that no amount of punishment will bring back the dead

I also recognize that this is a significant watershed event, where the gas distribution business will take notice and will act with a new motivation.

What if it were your one of close family that were killed ?

What if you had to identify the charred body ? Would you still feel the same ?

Anyone ?

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Since the San Bruno disaster is the LAST time a deadly event will ever ever occur due to negligence of employees in a public utility, then we can all correctly agree that we should do nothing about it. Right? We're all in agreement here?

Darrell Hambley P.E.
SENTEK Engineering, LLC

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

2
I think that the problems in piping are widespread. Not only in transport lines but in plant lines as well. Unqualified people inspecting and enforcing, or not enforcing the current codes. I believe there are very few people inspecting piping systems who actually know the code and do things correctly. The inspector/designers don't really know what to do or don't care. When the perpetrators are caught the fines to the company are minimal and are shrugged off. I would suggest a change to the enforcement policy that goes like this. When you are caught with a compliance violation the corrective action must be performed by an outside contractor. Whatever the cost to bring you into full company wide compliance by the contractor must be documented. The fine levied is then three times that amount.
No negotiations, no bargaining, no "this was an exception", done. As the systems stand right now it is cheaper to lie and say it is ok than to actually stand up for what is right. That needs to change.

My two cents.
StoneCold

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

MJCronin,
Did you read my post? My point was and continues to be that indicting the company is simply grandstanding and will do nothing to prevent reoccurance or to punish the guilty. None of the possible outcomes of this trial will result in things becoming better. Corporations are simply stacks of paper. Lock them up. Flog them. Burn them. They don't have the capacity to care.

The regulators should be asking "who made what decisions that contributed to the failure?" and "were those decisions in violation of the law?" and "What can be done to the regulations to prevent reoccurance?" Instead they are grandstanding and chasing headlines. My problem is not that there is an indictment, my problem is that it is simply a sham.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

My problem is that the politicians and the regulators think that I am stupid enough to believe the sham is anything other than a sham.

I'm insulted. You should be insulted too.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

I have nothing to say about this specific trajedy - So far outside of my expertise as to be nearly absurd; However, it reminds me of the Westray mine disaster here in Canada. Despite the OBVIOUS failures to protect the workers, the IGNORING of safety rules, the TOTAL LACK of protocols and inspections, no one was ever punished. A Royal Commission was held which produced a massive report. In the introduction to the report produced, Mr. Justice Peter Richard stated that:

Quote:

The Westray Story is a complex mosaic of actions, omissions, mistakes, incompetence, apathy, cynicism, stupidity, and neglect. Some well-intentioned but misguided blunders were also added to the mix. It was clear from the outset that the [tragedy] was not the result of a single definable event or misstep.

The outcry was so loud, so persistent, and so powerful that we here in Canada have now enacted Bill C-45, which makes corporate executives and managers personally responsible for the correct dispatch of safety related works and standards by the Corporate Individual, ie: Exactly what so many posters above have been saying would be reasonable.

Perhaps the US has now had its Westray... Only time and the vigor, or absence, of public outcry will tell.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Trust me, we've had dozens of "Westrays" here. You don't have to go much further than West Virginia and the coal mining industry for that. Compared to shaft mining of coal, virtually ever other industrial endeavor in this country looks like a safety paradise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Big_Branch_Mine...

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Wow... John, I had no idea... I hope they're lining up the executives forhard time!

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
PG&E Pleads Not Guilty to Charges From San Bruno Pipeline Explosion
California Utility Charged With Knowingly Breaking Federal Safety Rules

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
From the Wall Street Journal 4-21-14

PG&E Pleads Not Guilty to Charges From San Bruno Pipeline Explosion
California Utility Charged With Knowingly Breaking Federal Safety Rules



PG&E pleaded not guilty Monday to criminal charges that the company knowingly broke federal safety rules before a fatal natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., in 2010.

"While we don't believe any employee intentionally violated federal pipeline safety regulations, San Bruno was a tragic accident and we're accountable for that," PG&E said in a statement following the arraignment in federal court in San Francisco.

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury issued a 12-count indictment accusing PG&E of "knowingly and willfully" failing to keep important pipeline records and not paying proper attention to parts of its aging natural gas pipelines, including the section that exploded.

If found guilty of all 12 felonies, PG&E could face nearly $3.5 million in statutory penalties. The court also could impose an alternative fine based on any financial gain the company received as a result of the violation or on victims' losses, according to the U.S. Justice Department, which is prosecuting the case with the California Attorney General's office.

The indictment alleges Pacific Gas & Electric Co. of knowingly violating the federal Pipeline Safety Act, which dates back to 1968, between 2003 and 2010. In the only previous criminal case brought under the act, Olympic Pipeline Co. and three of its employees pleaded guilty in 2002 to violating pipeline safety rules before a petroleum pipeline exploded in 1999, killing three people in Bellingham, Wash.

PG&E's high-pressure gas pipeline in San Bruno exploded on Sept. 9, 2010, igniting a fire that damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and killed eight.

Federal investigators found that the utility used a method for testing the strength of the gas line that they consider outdated and dangerous. The test, which boosted the pressure of the gas flowing through the pipe above the allowed maximum level about every five years, probably weakened the pipeline, which had faulty welds and other flaws, investigators said.

The utility should have used water to test its pipes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's August 2011 report on the disaster. PG&E has been using water to test its old pipelines since the explosion, using a method called hydrostatic testing.

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson, who attended the court hearing, said people in her city believe PG&E is guilty of the charges.

"San Bruno was not an accident," she said, "it was a result of decades of mismanagement and failure to maintain the system."

PG&E faces potential state fines and penalties that could total about $2 billion. Lawyers for the state have accused the utility of breaking federal and state safety rules for decades in a pending case at the California Public Utilities Commission.

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
"PG&E could face enhanced fines in San Bruno blast"

Updated 7:26 am, Tuesday, April 22, 2014


http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/PG-amp-E-could...

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

I may be stupid and ignorant, but doesn't hydrostatically testing a pipe involve applying pressure above normal limits? In terms of stressing the pipe line material, what is the difference between using water and using a gas?

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Not stupid or ignorant, you're Electrical. wink

If a vessel charged with pressurised liquid fails, the pressure decays to zero very rapidly and the energy released is minimal. A vessel full of compressed gas will release an enormous amount of stored energy if it fails.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

i think the answer to the question, is


doesn't hydrostatically testing a pipe involve applying pressure above normal limits? whether the test is hydrostatic or pneumatic, the test pressure is established based on codes / regulations / standard procedures. It may be some percentage of MAWP which is generally higher than normal operating pressure. One problem is that MAWP may decrease over the lifetime of the pipe such that the normal operating pressure may have to be reduced.

In terms of stressing the pipe line material, what is the difference between using water and using a gas? no difference, you can test with water or air. but if the pipe fails the test, the resulting leak will either release a bit of water or a lot of air

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

In the link ("Pipeline Problems through the Decades")provided by MJCronin, PG&E found more than a few leaks (some bursts) in pipe subject to its hydrotesting. Imagine the damage if those bursts had exploded during pneumatic testing with natural gas. By the end of 2013, they replaced 104 miles of pipe out of 539 miles tested.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

John Baker,

I was going to bring up the open flouting of West Virginia mining laws in the 1880's and 1890's, which did not get any notice regardless of hundreds of deaths, until a mining company president was put in prison. That's when the decision was made to try to use contemporary standards of safety commonly practiced in England and the rest of Europe.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Question: Which was there first, the pipeline or the houses? Exactly who trespassed on whom? Not that it matters.
The issue is when you buy a property, you should look before buy, for things like power lines, pipelines, old mining activity, etc.

If the pipeline had been owned by say the BLM, who would be blamed? The fact that it was PG&E shoulden't make a difference. The decision was made by a person, and maybe not the CEO.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

cranky,

If the pipeline needed more clearance around it to keep the public safe, the owner should have bought that land. Given the extreme title searching mandated for mortgages - I HIGHLY doubt there was any kind of "trespass" by the house owners.

Sure, when you buy a house you should look for these things - but the operator has a responsibility to operate in a safe manner and not endanger the public.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

If the pipeline needed more clearance around it then the right-of-way should have been bigger, not that they should have bought it.

One of the details that news stories typically leave out (and this might be the case) is that right-of-way may have been violated. which is part of my question.

Agreed that the operator should have operated in a safe manor. However in some industries the goverment will tell you what it thinks is a safe manor. which I heard might have happened.

Some pipeline explosions in the past were found to be because of corrosion due to the removel of corrosion protection. And if this might be the case here.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Okay, maybe ROW means something different to you than to me. For roads and railroads, the ROW is typically owned by the State or the railroad company, respectively.

Your description sounds more like an easement, not a ROW. Is the terminology different for pipeline?

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

I know for electric lines we have an easement, and I believe that is true for gas lines.

The problem is at some point someone was paid for that easment, and it is transfered when the land is sold. The new owners sometimes think they bought the land, so therefore they can do what they want.

We see this in the electric industry where people will plant trees (not small ones but big ones) under the power lines. They are reminded that there is an easment after the power company cuts the trees to the ground (usually only done on transmission lines). And of corse they are mad because the mean old power company cut down there trees.

So it would not suprise me if garden sheds, garges, fences, trees, leveling fill, etc., were not put over the gas line, dispite the red markers. I've even seen where someone was digging a pool under a power line, and had a permit from the city (which was later revolked).

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
PG&E Pleads Not Guilty to Charges From San Bruno Pipeline Explosion

California Utility Charged With Knowingly Breaking Federal Safety Rules


From the Wall Street Journal: April 21, 2014


http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014240527...

PG&E Corp pleaded not guilty Monday to criminal charges that the company knowingly broke federal safety rules before a fatal natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., in 2010.

"While we don't believe any employee intentionally violated federal pipeline safety regulations, San Bruno was a tragic accident and we're accountable for that," PG&E said in a statement following the arraignment in federal court in San Francisco.

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury issued a 12-count indictment accusing PG&E of "knowingly and willfully" failing to keep important pipeline records and not paying proper attention to parts of its aging natural gas pipelines, including the section that exploded.

If found guilty of all 12 felonies, PG&E could face nearly $3.5 million in statutory penalties. The court also could impose an alternative fine based on any financial gain the company received as a result of the violation or on victims' losses, according to the U.S. Justice Department, which is prosecuting the case with the California Attorney General's office.

The indictment alleges Pacific Gas & Electric Co. of knowingly violating the federal Pipeline Safety Act, which dates back to 1968, between 2003 and 2010. In the only previous criminal case brought under the act, Olympic Pipeline Co. and three of its employees pleaded guilty in 2002 to violating pipeline safety rules before a petroleum pipeline exploded in 1999, killing three people in Bellingham, Wash.

PG&E's high-pressure gas pipeline in San Bruno exploded on Sept. 9, 2010, igniting a fire that damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and killed eight.

Federal investigators found that the utility used a method for testing the strength of the gas line that they consider outdated and dangerous. The test, which boosted the pressure of the gas flowing through the pipe above the allowed maximum level about every five years, probably weakened the pipeline, which had faulty welds and other flaws, investigators said.

The utility should have used water to test its pipes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's August 2011 report on the disaster. PG&E has been using water to test its old pipelines since the explosion, using a method called hydrostatic testing.

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson, who attended the court hearing, said people in her city believe PG&E is guilty of the charges.

"San Bruno was not an accident," she said, "it was a result of decades of mismanagement and failure to maintain the system."

PG&E faces potential state fines and penalties that could total about $2 billion. Lawyers for the state have accused the utility of breaking federal and state safety rules for decades in a pending case at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Write to Cassandra Sweet at cassandra.sweet@wsj.com

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

The last three paragraphs are illuminating

Quote:

PG&E cited an array of reasons for the delays, including the time needed to acquire land rights and construction and environmental permits.

In a separate filing, PUC Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey praised the utility for improvements in its record-keeping system, flaws in which had been cited as one of the causes of the San Bruno explosion.

"We find that PG&E has made great strides to improve its natural gas system records management from the time we began this proceeding," Bushey wrote in her filing. "PG&E's efforts show an ongoing commitment to continuous improvement."

So PG&E are some kind of villains because it is taking time to "acquire land rights ... and permits".

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

David - it's been 4 years. Any "it's taking time" reasoning is wearing rather thin.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

TomDOT,
Ever tried to get a permit to build pipe? Ever tried to acquire ROW? Both can take decades. I've never done it in California, but some of my relatives have had piplines built on their property and they were pretty easy and signed early. The time from getting their check for surface damages and incurring those damages was 9 years (other land owners were not a quick to sell the ROW). Every project is different, but to assume that 4 years in a long time is pretty outrageous.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

In California, there are State agencies(mutiple), County & City pemitting requirements plus the Owner's issues/legal rights. Then there are the non-profit organizations opposed to any growth/new building. Sometimes it's a wonder that anything gets done within four years.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

You guys are right. Let’s bring back the glory days of deregulation in California’s energy market. I mean it worked so well for them in 2000!!! Kenneth Lay for Governor!!!

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

David,

They aren't building out a new pipeline - that's an entirely different beast. This is pipeline where the ROW was settled years (or more typically decades) ago.

They haven't even managed to pressure test what they have.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

rconnor,
Neither of us has any clue what the heck you are talking about. Maybe whatever sycophant gave you the star for the random snipe could explain it. No don't bother, I just don't care.

TomDOT,
There are a lot of different things that you need ROW and permits for. I would expect that PG&E is currently in a position that no one wants to be the one who signed a permit for PG&E so things move even slower than normal.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

The point is, zdas04, that many seem to be trying to scapegoat the issue here onto regulations/regulators. This is done under the assumption that the system would work much more efficiently if the market was allowed to operate more independently. I just wanted to note that the energy sector in California was allowed to operate more independently in the late 1990’s and the results were less than stellar. I do agree that suggesting that Kenneth Lay run for Governor posthumously was silly. But hey, I can’t be serious all the time!

More on point, this situation highlights the need for changes to prevent this from happening again. Two such changes could be tighter regulations with more oversight or strong punitive action to incentivize companies to invest in maintenance and reliability. The former comes with added costs to an already thin and stretched budget of regulators. Furthermore, it is not the job of regulators to babysit companies; it is the companies that need to be accountable. Both points lead to the latter change.

To borrow a quote from moltenmetal, companies are algorithms. If X, the cost to perform preventative/regular maintenance, is greater than Y, the chance of a failure, times Z, the cost of a failure (both internal loss and external punitive measures), then usually the maintenance doesn’t get done. The threat of punitive measures needs to be real and needs to be substantial in order to affect that equation. In this way, regulations and punishments for breaking them, act to impose a sort of artificial morality onto an amoral entity (note: amoral, as in the absence of morals (descriptive), not immoral, as in morally wrong (judgmental)). In the absence of those, we continually see the amorality of companies seep through, such as in the case of Enron (my first point).

It is for this reasons that I agree with MJCronin that action needs to be taken against PG&E.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

As long as we have members of Congress who claim that it's perfectly all right to repair leaking pipelines using duct tape and trash bags, even going out of their way to compliment those who have done so sighting them for their innovative solutions, we are going to be hard pressed to get effective legislation which has any hope of addressing issues like this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/21/oil-pipe-...

And on a related topic, we have other people in Congress strongly objecting to even the IDEA that it might be time to review 50 year old oil-drilling saftly regulations which probably needs updating due to the many significant changes in oil and gas extraction technology, one example being hydraulic fracturing, which has occurred over that same period of time:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/21/don-young...

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

In my opinion, the process of placing blame on a guilty party is only a small part of what we are to learn from this event. That part of the process is mostly a psychological paliative and only provides a small deterrance to future problems.

Moving forward, the regulations should change, mandating inspection of pipelines by 3rd parties, and the records should be available for public review. Real estate transactions should include providing the prospective buyer a summary of the risks associated with that area ( pipelines, railcars, mudslides, etc)

And, more importantly and more relevant to most of the people posting on this topic, it should serve as a reminder that the engineering tasks each of us are involved with have a safety impication for the operators of the equipment and the public; most design standards and codes are actually "safety codes" and the provisions of each paragraph were likely paid in blood from past accidents of one sort or another.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad "

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Dave, that regulation change sounds very reasonable - Frankly, the risk profile should be included in the survey and possibly in the title search.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

It does sound reasonable in a vacuum. 3rd party inspectors. How could that be bad? Who gets on the list to do the job? Who ensures that the crony on the list is qualified? Who writes the check to the inspector (the company will end up paying, but if they pay the 3rd party directly then who is he working for? If the money comes from the government then you have to find inspectors that can tolerate 90 wait for payment). I've seen this "independent 3rd party" thing tried numerous times and never seen one where is seemed to work.

Public records? Who maintains them, on what schedule, how tough is it to convince a clerk to lose a record?

There is no panacea to the very real problem of aging infrastructure. Bridges outlive their useful life. Roads need major repairs. Pipeline integrity needs to be assessed and managed. There are ways to do that. One that seems to have a chance is to require a maintenance bond when the pipeline is permitted just like we do with oil and gas wells (plugging costs are part of drilling costs not end-of-life maintenance budget). It hasn't been perfect with wells, but it has been pretty good. Regulations could require a maintenance plan (with a schedule) to be included in the permit application, and the reserve fund would be earmarked for those activities. The whole "you tell me what you are going to do to ensure public safety and I'll audit to make sure you did it model" has had some significant successes where proscriptive "you have to run smart pigs every 3 years" regulations haven't worked very well at all.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

David,

Property survey and/or title search really should be able to encompass listing pipelines, easements, age of the pipeline and such without too much strain on the surveyors or title company.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

ZDAS, the same thing can be said for listing risk for any property. Who is qualified to evaluate those risks, and who is responcible if that risk changes?
Not that I feel it is worthless to do. The buyer should do there homework.

Things not listed is mine subsistance, high isocronic levels, military base nearby, bad drivers, convicted sex perverts or where should it end.

Maybe this is more of a home inspection thing. The buyer should hire someone to provide a list of hazards outside the home.
But lets not go as far as the lead based paint thing, where the seller must certify the home has or has not any lead based paint.


Another issue is external damage to pipelines, where the corrosion after the damage slowly erodes the pipe from the outside. Should contractors be required to report there activities within a easment or right of way?

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Cranky, that lead based paint thing must be state specific. I'm pretty sure around here you only need to disclose lead paint if you have knowledge of it. As a seller, if you don't know, you don't need to disclose. Not much of a burden.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

In California, the safety regulatory body is the CPUC, which was implicated/complicit in the catastrophy. In Texas, the Railroad Commission is the regulatory body responsible for safety. In both States, safety is not their only responsibility. From my observations of the CPUC, when I worked for a Gas Utility, and during my last 18+ years in Texas observing the actions of the Railroad Commission, neither regulatory body appears to be truly interested in Safety of the public.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

When these commissions are made-up of mostly FORMER and/or FUTURE employees of the organizations that they're supposed to be watching over, what other outcome were you expecting?

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Or they are made up of university professors with an agenda.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Or Political Lackeys or Cronies/Campaign Contributors to appropriate Elections Committees.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

I've generally noticed that most regulatory agencies are staffed with so-called 'industry experts', which in and of itself is probably not a bad idea, until you see the 'revolving door' between these agencies and the entitees that they are supposed to be regulating. But then that's SOP in many areas of government. Ever notice that retired high-ranking military officers either become pundits for cable-news networks or end up on the BOD's of the companies which supply hardware to the Pentagon...

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

Zdas04;
The public access to attributes of systems related to properties is well established as part of the GIS system, and almost all munincipalities in the USA allow public access to the GIS system attributes. Adding a hazard attribute or pipeline attribute is just one more file set.

Also, there are now many commercial software packages that allow maintanence of NDT and inspection data for pipelines ( and other equipment types) , tied into GPS coordinates. The feasibility is not in question ,just the political will to do it. Much like the ability to prove a worker has the right to work in the USA- very easy to supply such a system, but zero political will to do it.

3rd party inspector certification is not too difficult either- it does not need to be based on a corrupt political system , unless that is what one wants and expects.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad "

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

As I said, a risk assesment is great, as long as the risk is known. But old things that predated GIS are not always on the GIS system. Old mines, pipelines, dump sites, etc. Other things also may not be listed because things have traveled, like ground water contamation. And natural things can also become issues like radon.

The problem is if one of these are not listed, it becomes fodder for lawyers.

Even with an up to date GIS, locaters, and mandatory call before you dig laws, we still experence weekly dig into our power lines. So this is the basis of my pessismesm.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
Latest NEWS !! 7/30/2014...

PG&E hit with new federal felony charges in San Bruno explosion !

"All told, the U.S. Department of Justice filed 27 charges accusing PG&E of willfully violating the pipeline safety act, and one charge of obstructing an investigation of the explosion by the National Transportation Safety Board, with prosecutors alleging the company lied to federal investigators about the policies it was using to fix its pipeline system. The new indictment replaces one filed April 1 that charged PG&E with 12 felony counts."

http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_26239670/pg...

Without teeth in regulation, and the threat of criminal penalties, regulation is meaningless......

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

From my close relatives and friends who were prosecuting attorneys, the use of the "shotgun" approach (high number of charges,) hoping that a few will stick, is usually indicative of a weak case. Those employees, including top management, who deliberately obstructed and lied, sholud be held accountable.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
More deaths from process gas pipelines run in urban areas:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Kaohsiung_gas_ex...

In this case, the failed 4" pipeline carried propene, which is more potent than natural gas..... carries a punch about the same as propane.

At least 30 people were killed and 309 others were injured. Huge economic impact

The San Bruno event was listed by Wikipedia as a reference...

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

(OP)
After four long years, California regulators have finally imposed $1.4 billion in penalties against Pacific Gas & Electric for the San Bruno explosion...

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2014/09/02/pge...

People have to die in the USA before reasonable competent regulation is achieved.
Over the past ten years, have you read of any spectacular gas line explosions in Europe ?? I have not.... why is that so ?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/californi...

How long will it be before another similar accident in an American city ????

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

It's taken nearly 35 years, but the impacts of 'Reagan Economics' are finally starting to be felt by everyone. After all, exactly WHAT DID PEOPLE THINK that the long term effects of deregulation and reduced investments in infrastructure were going to be?

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Industry Sector
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

OK, $1.4 billion comes from PG&E into the gaping maw of the state of California. In the long term, this fine goes straight to the rate base (so is it really just a tax?). PG&E is in no way hurt by this result. The whole case is simply posturing and grandstanding. No one is hurt. No one is helped. This was a garbage case that ends up with a non-result. What a win for the people.

As for deregulation--if PG&E had not been perceived by the stat to have violated the laws in place, the case would not have been filed. So by definition they are lawless, most likely they would have broken laws under the pre-Reagan regulations too. Same outcome.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle of injustice Frédéric Bastiat

RE: PG&E Now Charged With Felonies In San Bruno Pipeline Explosion - Recent development

"Same outcome"

The difference is that the California PUC would have had a more direct oversight and control than they do now.

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