Audit Reveals California Utility Didn’t Spend $50M for Safety

June 6, 2013

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. did not use $50 million it collected from ratepayers that was meant to improve its gas pipeline network in the decade leading to a deadly explosion in a San Francisco Bay area suburb, an audit shows.

nastural gas meter on homeFrom 1999 to 2010, the utility regularly failed to use all the money to fix and maintain small gas lines that deliver natural gas to homes and businesses, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday, citing the audit by Leawood, Kan.-based Overland Consulting for the California Public Utilities Commission.

Overland could not say exactly how PG&E spent the money, but it blamed ineffective executive management. It said the utility has not done enough since the 2010 San Bruno gas line blast to make up for shortchanging safety efforts earlier.

PG&E disputes some of the findings and has spent more than it received from customers in recent years for system improvements, PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord said.

The blast in San Bruno killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes. A larger, gas transmission line exploded in that case, not the distribution lines cited in the audit.

But distribution lines can also explode, as they did in Cupertino in 2011 and Rancho Cordova in 2008, the Chronicle reported.

The 2008 blast killed a homeowner.

A previous report by Overland found that PG&E had diverted tens of millions of dollars from maintenance of its gas transmission pipes as well, the newspaper said.

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