Consumers Shut Out of CPUC Pipeline Testing Confab

TURN, The Utility Reform Network, today criticized a CPUC “symposium” on PG&E’s hydrostatic testing of gas pipelines for not including all viewpoints or stakeholders.

For Immediate Release from TURN, The Utility Reform Network

Wednesday, March 7, San Francisco—TURN, The Utility Reform Network, today criticized a CPUC “symposium” on PG&E’s hydrostatic testing of gas pipelines for not including all viewpoints or stakeholders.  Trust of PG&E is at an all-time low, and restoring it requires a robust public process, not a dog and pony show that primarily features PG&E’s point of view and includes no input from consumer representatives.

TURN is not convinced that PG&E is adequately testing its pipelines for possible dangers, and believes higher pressure tests are warranted in some cases.   Transparency about the pressures being tested and the conditions of the pipes is essential.  A CPUC process that does not allow consumer representatives a seat at the table will do little to calm customer fears.

“We know that high pressure testing works,” said Marcel Hawiger, staff attorney for TURN.  “In at least one case, high pressure testing identified a major problem.  We want assurances from PG&E that equally effective methods are used for all potentially dangerous pipelines.  Customers want the CPUC to make sure that testing by PG&E is being done in the most effective way possible, any and all dangers are identified and dealt with before an explosion, not after.”

Hawiger said that TURN’s major concern is that if the pressure testing done by PG&E is too low  “we run the risk of having to do it again—or worse.”

The CPUC turned down TURN’s request to have an expert panelist at the symposium, leaving the following questions unanswered:

  • Is PG&E running their pressure tests at a high enough pressure?
  • Will customers be forced to pay for substandard testing again?
  • Will defects continue to go undetected?

TURN will raise these issues, and demand better CPUC oversight of PG&E’s safety practices and spending, in upcoming hearings on PG&E’s proposal to bill customers as much as $11 billion extra for long-neglected pipeline safety.