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CPUC: Whistleblower Allegations About Faulty Pipeline Welds 'Unfounded'

The California Public Utilities Commission's investigation concluded that PG&E has been properly checking its welds since it began high-pressure water testing its gas lines in the wake of the 2010 San Bruno explosion.

PG&E's pipeline welding work, which came under scrutiny earlier this year after , was in compliance with federal and state gas pipeline safety regulations, a state investigation concluded.

The California Public Utilties Commission issued a report today on its investigation of the whistleblower allegations and said that PG&E has been properly checking its welds since it began in the wake of the 2010 San Bruno explosion. 

PG&E pressure-tested more than 150 miles of natural gas pipelines that have similar characteristics to the line that exploded in San Bruno in 2010.

The company conducted water pressure, or "hydrostatic," testing to determine the reliability of numerous pipeline segments throughout its service area.

Two welders from the United Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters, and Steamfitters Local Union Nos. 246 and 342 came forward in February and said that certain welds performed by PG&E on specific gas pipeline segments were problematic.

According to ABC7:

The two whistleblowers worked for contractors that were helping PG&E with its hydrostatic pressure testing last year. One of them, Marshall Worland, with 48 years experience as a welder, told the state PUC, "The quality of the welds inside was truly terrible." Worland cited defective root passes, burn throughs, and internal cuts.

ABC7 continued:

Another welder with 25 years experience provided the CPUC with photos he took of a section of Line 132, the line that runs through San Bruno. Mike Mikich testified, "The vast majority of the welds we saw on Line 132 were defective and showed extraordinarily poor workmanship."

The CPUC found those allegations to be unfounded. During the investigation, the CPUC said one of the welders said he did not support or accept responsibility for many parts of the testimony submitted in his name.

"Based on its investigation, CPUC staff did not find any instances in which welds were not inspected in compliance with federal and state gas pipeline safety regulations," investigators concluded. "Further, CPUC staff found that PG&E is evaluating defects when they are found, and that any significant defects are cut out of the line."

Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's executive vice president of gas operations, said the commission's findings confirmed what the company already had reviewed on its own.

Stavropoulos said the company will continue to do things the right way so that trust can be regained among customers and regulators.

"PG&E has conducted an unprecedented amount of hydrotesting in the past two years—163 miles of tests in 2011 and more than 97 miles in the first eight months of 2012—in communities all over Northern and Central California," he said in a statement. "We stand behind the results of our testing, and we remain committed to the highest-quality work as we improve our natural gas system.”

To read the full report, visit the CPUC's website.

Rob Chapman September 06, 2012 at 04:14 AM
The CPUC defending PG&E, no surprise there. Two corrupt organizations that have been in bed with each other for decades.

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