PG&E collected $183M for natural gas pipeline repairs never made 

Two decades ago, PG&E decided to replace the aging pipeline that ran through San Bruno. Its customers paid to do so. But it was never replaced. And it’s unclear where the money went.

Click on the photo at right to see a map of pipelines that run through the Glenview neighborhood in San Bruno.

An audit released Monday revealed that ratepayers paid PG&E about $183 million in the late 1980s and early 1990s for pipeline replacements that were never performed.

In March, documents released by federal investigators disclosed that PG&E once planned to replace the section of pipeline that eventually exploded in September, reducing a neighborhood to ash.

In fact, the utility replaced nearly all the pipeline around that spot, stopping less than a quarter mile south of the rupture site, and then beginning again a quarter-mile to the north. The half-mile stretch of pipeline through the Glenview neighborhood was untouched.

After the news broke, Congresswoman Jackie Speier asked the California Public Utility Commission to investigate whether PG&E had spent all the money it received. Two months later, the agency said PG&E collected $183 million more than it spent.

PG&E began planning to replace all its old lines in 1984 and asked for money to do so three times between 1987 and 1995. The first two times, it collected more than it spent. The CPUC finally caught onto this trend in 1995, and declined to give PG&E what it asked for. But the agency still didn’t require any accounting of the money that PG&E had already collected.

“It is tragic that it took a disaster that killed eight people to bring to light the ramifications of $183 million in under-spending,” Speier said in a statement.

PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord had no information about why the project was not completed or what the money was spent on.

A spokesman for the CPUC said the regulator now requires PG&E to provide full reports on how it spends its money.

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Katie Worth

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