PG&E Statement on First Day of NTSB Hearings

Mar 01, 2011, 20:17 ET from Pacific Gas and Electric Company

SAN FRANCISCO, March 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today issued the following statement by Chris Johns, President of PG&E, at the conclusion of the first day of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings:

"We appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's hearings and applaud the NTSB for its diligent effort to examine critical pipeline safety issues that are important to PG&E and to the entire industry.  We continue to learn from the tragedy in San Bruno and adapt our operations based on the findings of various reviews, including the NTSB's investigation as well as our own.  We intend to share the lessons we learn with the industry to enhance gas safety across the United States.  

This was an important opportunity to address these topics in today's hearing regarding the tragic San Bruno accident, what we have learned as a result of it, and the comprehensive efforts we are pursuing now to review and improve our operations.  We are prepared to do everything we can to help enhance the safety of our system—and to challenge longstanding, fundamental precepts in our industry.

Since the San Bruno tragedy, we have reviewed our operating practices with independent experts; taken action to reduce pressure on some of our pipelines to provide an added measure of safety; resurveyed our transmission lines across our system for leaks; launched a global search for a seasoned senior officer to lead our gas operations; shifted key personnel and assets to enhance our team; accelerated our efforts to modernize the pipeline system; and begun an intensive process to collect and validate our gas pipeline records."

The key issues PG&E addressed today include:

Use of Remote Shut-Off Valves

PG&E's system includes a number of automatic/remotely operated shut-off valves, and PG&E is working with industry experts to study the best use of these valves and significantly expand their use where appropriate. As PG&E's testimony today made clear, it is piloting the installation of twelve new remote valves this year and will be filing a plan with the California Public Utilities Commission to substantially increase their use.

Emergency Response

PG&E has longstanding field and control room training and protocols for emergency response to help ensure that PG&E employees are equipped to properly address emergency situations. PG&E is now taking many additional steps to strengthen this system. The company is enhancing its Gas Control working practices and procedures with the help of experts in human performance factors, alarm prioritization and training, and it has obtained new software programs to be used for simulator training on abnormal operating conditions and alarm prioritization.

PG&E has a well-established set of plans and protocols for contacting emergency first responders and working with its communities to ensure an effective response. PG&E is also creating a new training program with input from first responders throughout California to ensure that the utility and fire agencies are well-coordinated in the event of any disaster.  

Pipeline Integrity Management

The primary risk factor used to determine and designate high consequence areas is the potential impact on people. As part of its pipeline management process, the company is reexamining all technologies for evaluating pipeline integrity and is funding the development of new technologies that can help do a better job of inspecting pipelines. Each pipeline inspection methodology has its own strengths, limitations and appropriate uses; no one method is best for all circumstances.  PG&E's efforts to ensure that it is using the right methods for the right situations will take time, but the company is approaching this task with a sense of urgency.  

Record Keeping

PG&E is hard at work confirming the quality of its data through collecting and validating its gas transmission pipeline records. The company knows it must improve its system of records.  This process, which includes more than 300 employees and contractors, is being reviewed by outside experts. The end result will be a centralized, electronic database that will allow PG&E to more effectively update, maintain and manage the records for the transmission pipeline system – and guide the company's efforts to enhance the safety of its system.  

PG&E looks forward to hearing from the remaining panels as the NTSB continues its investigation into the root causes of the San Bruno tragedy.

SOURCE Pacific Gas and Electric Company