It is good to see that someone in Sacramento is taking the investigation into the horrible PG&E pipeline explosion and loss of life and property seriously. Does not appear that anyone will get away with sweeping the “facts” that lead to the incident (and I really am at a loss of words to adequately describe the explosion and aftermath) get swept “under the rug.” That “someone” in this case is California State Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez.
In an effort to determine the causes of the San Bruno gas line explosion and prevent future such trajedies, Senator Florez is asking Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Public Utilities Commission to turn over hundreds of pages of internal documents to the state Senate.
Arguing that PG&E failed to fix what it knew to be a potentially dangerous problem, the Senate Majority leader is also asking the utility to provide the names of PG&E personnel who worked in the vicinity of the San Bruno pipeline in the days prior to the blast.
In separate letters today to PG&E and the CPUC, Sen. Florez, D-Shafter, cites a pattern of concealment on the part of the utility and a pattern of lax oversight by the public watchdog.
“More than two weeks after the tragedy, we are left with an inescapable question: Did PG&E’s neglect and deferred maintenance, a pattern of nonfeasance, cause the tragedy?” Florez said.
Florez is seeking a wide range of documents that he believes will help to uncover a practice of launching new technologies and yet at the same time, the utility giant has given short shrift to upgrading decaying gas lines that run up and down the state, beneath homes and businesses.
“I believe if these documents are released, they will reveal that PG&E was literally asleep at the switch when it came to identifying and fixing dangerous gas lines such as Line 132 beneath San Bruno.”
“I think we need to know if PG&E received millions of dollars in rate hikes to improve decrepit gas lines but yet, for inexplicable reasons, failed to do the work.”
“Without the documents that I am requesting, I would argue that this is what happened with Line 132,” Florez said. “PG&E had money allocated to do the upgrade. But the repairs were never done. How come? Where did those millions of dollars go?”
In the wake of the San Bruno tragedy, Florez said, PG&E has done its best to confuse the public, issuing a series of inconsistent statements.
In early news accounts, PG&E officials conceded that the utility had received millions of dollars in capital expenditures to repair Line 132 because of its “likelihood of failure” and “unacceptably high” risk.
Then, in later press accounts, PG&E insisted that Line 132 was not a high risk and did not even rank on the most recent list of the Top 100 “high-risk” lines.
Why was Line 132 removed from the most recent “high risk” list? Did PG&E make repairs to Line 132 that lessened the risk? Or was the accounting of these high-risk lines so arbitrary that decaying lines were moved on and off the list–without rhyme or reason?
Then there is PG&E’s insistence that it knew nothing about gas odors emanating from the San Bruno pipeline in the days prior to the explosion. The utility also denies that its records show that PG&E crews were dispatched to the neighborhood in the days prior to the blast.
Florez is seeking the names of PG&E personnel who recently worked in the area.
“Our office wants to question those PG&E workers. Do we believe PG&E higher ups? Or do we believe resident after resident quoted in prominent newspapers about gas odors and PG&E trucks sent to the San Bruno neighborhood in the days prior?
“Frankly, after butting heads with PG&E over the past year on rate hikes and SmartMeters, I don’t trust their corporate culture.”
Florez says his office has much experience digging into PG&E and would act as a state clearinghouse for the information.
“PG&E is a morass to dig through, but we know the questions to ask and the documents to seek. My plan is to share those documents with my fellow legislators who will be holding hearings on the matter. The public deserves to know the truth.”
Stay Tuned! I will post updates on FreeFlightNewMedia.TypePad.Com and a summary as warranted here on Calitics.com.