San Bruno explosion report blasts PG&E, CPUC 

Both PG&E and its regulator have had a longstanding culture of simply checking off boxes, rather than deeply considering the safety of their system, according a blistering report released Thursday by an independent panel.

The independent panel was assembled last fall by the California Public Utilities Commission to assess the factors that contributed to the explosion of a Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. gas pipeline in San Bruno last September, which took the lives of eight people and destroyed dozens of homes.

On Thursday, that panel unveiled the results of its months of study into the program. Among their findings were:

  • Both PG&E and CPUC have had a culture more attuned to simply complying with federal code than focusing on the safety of their system.
  • A failure at both PG&E and CPUC to adequately learn from mistakes or problems discovered both internally and elsewhere in the industry.
  • Major problems with the quality and availability of records about pipeline safety.
  • At PG&E, a focus on the occupational safety of employees, but no similar focus on the pipeline system’s safety.
  • A lack of technical understanding among the management at PG&E.
  • People low on the totem pole at CPUC had indeed discovered some problems at PG&E, but their concerns were never seriously considered by the people at the top of the agency.
  • PG&E’s “Pipeline 2020”, it’s response to the explosion, is unimpressive and prescriptive.
  • The CPUC is understaffed, and the staff it has is undertrained.

Commissioners heard the testimony of the panelists and vowed to take their recommendations seriously. Commission president Michael Peevey called the report “damning of PG&E across the board,” and agreed that there has historically been a “culture of complacency” at CPUC.

Shortly after the report was issued, PG&E issued a statement calling the report “thoughtful” and saying they are moving quickly to adopt its recommendations. Their statement also took full responsibility for the explosion.

“We are deeply sorry for the tragic accident in San Bruno. And we are committed to earning our customers’ trust and confidence by continuing to do whatever is necessary to bring our performance up to industry-leading standards and see that an accident like the one in San Bruno never happens again,” the statement read.


San Bruno blast independent investigation executive summary

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