PUC locks the barn—after the horse has been stolen.
State regulators on Tuesday ordered PG&E to keep a natural gas pipeline in San Carlos shut down until the unit’s safety can be verified.
The Safety and Enforcement Division of the Public Utilities Commission has initiated a probe to determine whether the pipeline poses any immediate perils.
“We are thrilled that the PUC stepped in so quickly to keep the line shut down,” San Bruno City Manager Jeff Maltbie told this newspaper.
Separately, PG&E went to court on Tuesday, seeking an injunction against a county judge’s ruling that ordered the utility to shut down the nearly four-mile-long stretch of pipeline in San Carlos because of safety concerns. PG&E argued that the state PUC maintains the primary jurisdiction over its operations.
“It is good that if the PUC doesn’t know the condition of the pipe that it be shut down,” said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network. “The big question is why don’t they know.”
PG&E shut down the line Sunday night following last week’s ruling by a San Mateo County judge.
“The duty to furnish and maintain safe equipment and facilities falls squarely on California public utilities, including PG&E,” PUC Commissioner Michael Florio said in the ruling. “The burden of proving that particular facilities are safe also rests with PG&E.”
The battle over the San Carlos pipeline is the latest controversy that has arisen over PG&E’s natural gas system after the San Bruno explosion in 2010.
“This pipeline has been demonstrated to be safe,” said Nick Stavropoulos, a PG&E executive vice president in charge of gas operations. “Under no circumstances would we operate this pipeline in an unsafe condition.”