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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Pacific Gas & Electric Pipelines are Far Beyond Safe

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Vowing to get to the bottom of what caused the deadly September gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, CA that killed eight and leveled 38 homes, federal and state regulators have been searching for a cause and probing safety protocols at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Recently, they found records indicating that PG&E put off inspecting its lines for years and used less thorough inspection techniques than its own safety guidelines recommended. Rather than perform a detailed in-line inspection where robotic devices travel through the line checking for wear and tear, and other problems, PG& E opted for only performing an external corrosion detection, which is merely looking at the outside of the pipe. Records also show that just two years ago, the utility did not have proper procedures in place to ensure that employees were following key safety bulletins from federal regulators. It seems PG&E seemed to be "diluting" the inspection program’s requirements and wasn’t devoting enough company resources to ensuring its gas lines were safe, according to state auditors. Investigators have also questioned whether the utility raised the pressure in the gas line to the legal limit as it had in several other lines. According to experts, increasing gas pressure to the maximum allowable level is generally safe, as long as the pipes are in good condition. The San Bruno pipeline was 40 – 50 years old and had not been inspected for repairs in years.

Last week, PG&E confirmed that it boosted pressure beyond the legal limits in several of its gas pipelines, including San Bruno. Beyond the legal limit for a pipeline that was 40 – 50 years old and that had not been inspected for years? This is not only dangerous, it is illegal. PG&E admits to the illegal pressure boosts, but claims they were caused by a mechanical problem or employee errors and that it didn’t last more than five days. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) believes the illegal pressure boost occurred over a period of several years.

This admission comes after PG&E recently conceded that the pipeline, which they previously said was of seamless construction, actually consisted of a hodgepodge of pieces that were haphazardly welded together in the exact location that exploded. Their shoddy workmanship took the lives of eight people and left thirty-eight families homeless.

This revelation that PG&E exceeded pipelines’ maximum operating pressures, increasing the likelihood of deadly explosions, closely followed the release of a report detailing gas leaks that were detected throughout PG&E’s gas network during a CPUC safety blitz in September, October and November. One gas line was so badly corroded that a section was immediately replaced. A pinhole leak in another line wasn’t repaired for three days. In total, 92 hazardous leaks were discovered. The more investigators probe into the San Bruno explosion, the worse things look for PG&E. It may take years to resolve their problems, but hopefully it will not take years for victims receive compensation and justice. I hope PG&E gets the message loud and clear –SAFETY FIRST!

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.