Pacific Gas & Electric recently turned over further documents to the California Public Utilities Commission and claimed that the deadly San Bruno gas pipeline explosion had nothing to do with the accuracy of the utility giant's record keeping. This follows closely on the heels of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which concluded that PG&E records did not properly identify welds in a natural gas pipeline that exploded in San Bruno in September 2010. The deadly blast and resulting fire killed eight people and destroyed nearly 40 homes.
The 110-page filing acknowledges the record discrepancy, which involved misidentification of the segment of pipe where the blast occurred as containing a seamless weld. The NTSB released documents and transcripts in March that revealed an apparently flawed seam weld discovered by PG&E inspectors a short distance from the San Bruno blast site.
Some commentators speculate that PG&E's ultimate liability for the explosion could have a major financial impact on the company. Two recent departures of prominent executives suggest the possibility of management failures that would underscore the company's responsibility for the wrongful deaths, business disruptions and widespread property damage that resulted from the explosion. In addition, proof of such problems could allow the company's insurers to void liability policies and require the company to compensate homeowners, surviving family members and other plaintiffs out of its own revenues.
After any incident that causes catastrophic injuries, a close examination of the responsible party's actions is required. Perhaps hoping to avoid the worst consequences of public perception, PG&E recently mailed safety information to residents and businesses that lie within 2,000 feet of major natural gas pipelines. The utility says the mailers contain the information that neighbors, first responders and public officials need in the event of another major natural gas explosion.
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