Questions raised about PG&E underground enclosures


Inspection failures contributed to the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion and now PG&E says there were recent lapses in its electric system inspections. A PG&E video shows what they call an "underground enclosure." It's not a vault that fits two people, the enclosures require only one inspector.

Over the past two years, PG&E has had to re-inspect thousands of them, after finding out some employees and contractors never even opened them as legally required every three years. The first round of re-inspections was done last year.

"We went back and re-inspected every facility those inspectors had inspected in 2010 and 2011. It was about 26,000 facilities," said Andrew Souvall from PG&E.

PG&E then started requiring inspectors to leave behind a verification tag inside and this year, missing tags pointed to more skipped inspections by contractors. Dozens of employees and contractors have been fired or suspended.

"We've also added 48 inspectors who were employed so that we have more of our force that is employees rather than contractors," said Souvall.

"It's not just a problem that's underground transformers or gas leaks or pipes or rotten telephone poles, it goes right through the company," said attorney Mike Danko.

Danko got an undisclosed settlement for Lisa Nash, who was badly burned when a PG&E underground transformer exploded into flame up through a Downtown San Francisco sidewalk in 2005. The utility said a proper maintenance had been done there, but he doesn't believe it.

"Management is rewarded for making money, and they're rewarded quarter by quarter by quarter making money. And going around inspecting vaults and ripping up old pipes and finding leaks is not how they make money," said Danko.

The CPUC has cited PG&E for the missed inspections, but has not fined them.

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