Report: PG&E boosted pressure on vulnerable lines

A massive fire roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. A massive fire burned homes as it roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in the hills south of San Francisco following a loud explosion Thursday evening that shot a fireball more than 1,000 feet into the air and sent frightened residents fleeing for safety, witnesses said. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

February 6, 2011 3:52:24 PM PST
Records show Pacific Gas & Electric boosted the pressure inside a California pipeline shortly before telling state regulators the utility considered the segment to be at the highest risk of failure of any in the San Francisco Bay area.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday that PG&E spiked the load of the Fremont to Livermore line in June 2009 even though the company knew that some sections were 80 years old and manufactured by a supplier whose pipe welds had not stood up well over time.

The revelation could be significant because federal investigators are examining if a combination of faulty welds and pressure increases caused a pipeline to rupture across the bay in San Bruno. The September explosion destroyed 38 homes and killed eight people.

PG&E spokesman Joe Molica says the pressure on the Fremont line was below the maximum allowed.