San Bruno rejects PG&E ‘assumptions’ on safety 

The disdain fairly drips from the city of San Bruno’s response to PG&E’s request to make assumptions about the safety of its system, rather than test every natural-gas pipeline.

“Eight people are now dead, many are severely injured and a neighborhood has been destroyed partly based on the fact that [PG&E’s] ‘assumptions’ were wrong,” the response reads.

San Bruno filed the document with the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday, a day after the commission’s staff told PG&E. that they would recommend against allowing assumptions to be made.

In January, the CPUC asked PG&E to review all records on its pipeline system and justify the pressure at which it pumps natural gas. In March, PG&E responded to that request, but it included several hundred miles of pipeline for which the company used assumptions rather than actual proof to justify the pressure.

Though the CPUC staff was so unhappy about this response that it recommended fining PG&E, the company has continued to campaign for the regulator to accept some assumptions, arguing it would be unreasonably expensive and disruptive, if not impossible, to test hundreds of miles of pipeline in the near future.

On Tuesday, CPUC safety chief Richard Clark wrote to PG&E management saying his staff “has become increasingly uncomfortable with PG&E’s proposal to use assumptions” to decide what pressures are acceptable. Instead of assuming things about the pipe, Clark wrote that PG&E should test the strength of the pipeline directly.

On Thursday, the city of San Bruno reiterated this sentiment, arguing that the CPUC should reject any use of assumptions, particularly “considering the devastating damage that occurred partly based on ‘assumption.’”

“Erroneous assumptions are part of the reason why we are here today,” the document said.

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Katie Worth

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