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San Bruno officials disagree with PG&E auditors

An international auditor has awarded PG&E high marks for its national gas operations, but San Bruno city officials are not impressed.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
An international auditor awarded PG&E high marks Tuesday for its natural gas operations, however San Bruno city officials are not impressed by the acknowledgement, citing the deadly pipeline explosion there back in 2010 and the utility's track record ever since then.

Being in the San Bruno neighborhood where eight people died and several others were injured, it's hard to imagine PG&E getting any kind of recognition for safety, but the company says three years and $2.7 billion later, it is a different company.

After the September 2010 pipeline explosion, PG&E made some major administrative moves. They hired a gas operations expert and they reached out to "Lloyd's Register," an independent auditor, to validate the improvements PG&E was making. "To analyze and determine if what we say is what we actually do," explained Nick Stavropoulos with PG&E Gas Operations.

PG&E says that included replacing pipelines at a much faster rate, inspecting what's underground, installing automated shut-off valves, and interviewing crews.

Lloyd's Register, which has been in business for more than 250 years, said they called the shots during their inspection even though PG&E hired and paid them for their work. "Did they give us the documents? We asked for the documents. We tell them where we want to go. We're not led. We've done this quite significantly," said Peter Glaholm with Lloyd's Register.

The auditor says following the San Bruno explosion, PG&E is a better and safer company. But San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson says a recent audit by the California Public Utilities Commission finds there are still critical areas that need improvement. "The city does not believe that the certification program or any similar activities demonstrate that the system is actually safe," Jackson said.

"We welcome folks to come look at our hydro testing that we've been doing, or our pipeline replacement, and witness all the work that has been done, because it's been huge amounts of improvements over the past two-and-a-half years," said PG&E President Chris Johns.

"A certification, once obtained, you need to continue to earn it," Stavropoulos said.

Lloyd's will be back in November to do more inspections and every year after that.
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