Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Must Read: PG&E Lied About Pipe Pressure, Uses Unreliable Tests: Judge Threatens OPD

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 7:00 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The federal investigation of PG&E’s pipeline explosion in San Bruno has revealed that the utility was operating the line at dangerously high pressure levels for an old pipe — and at a higher pressure than PG&E had previously disclosed, the Mercury News reported. PG&E was operating the line at up to 386 pounds per square inch — not 375 as the utility had said publicly. Too much pressure has caused other pipelines to explode, and experts said that the San Bruno line might have been too old and worn out to handle that much pressure.

2. At the same time, industry experts told the Chronicle that PG&E has been using outdated tests to examine its natural gas pipelines, including the San Bruno line. In fact, the utility’s claim that the line recently passed inspection was based on one of those out-of-date tests. The inferior testing method doesn’t adequately check for pipeline corrosion — another possible reason for why the San Bruno line blew up. PG&E says newer, more effective testing methods are too expensive.

3. However, state records show that PG&E has spent tens of millions of dollars that were supposed to go to pipeline maintenance and replacement on other things, the CoCo Times reported. Regulators have demanded that PG&E disclose how much money it has actually spent on pipeline maintenance and replacement. They also are demanding that the utility release a list of its highest risk pipelines. The San Bruno line is on that list, as is a line that connects Livermore to Sunol and one in Fremont. So far, PG&E has been reluctant to release the list, saying it’s worried about security.

4. A federal judge who is monitoring Oakland police reforms heavily criticized the department at a hearing late last week and threatened to take it over, the Tribune reported. Judge Thelton Henderson, who is monitoring the department because of the Riders scandal, threatened to put the department in “receivership.” If that were to happen, the judge would appoint an overseer who would have power over Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts. The judge is upset that the department has still not instituted the police misconduct reforms that it agreed to several years ago.

5. Oakland City Councilwoman Jean Quan, who is also running for mayor, had her pursed snatched in a Safeway parking lot on Saturday night in the city’s Dimond District, the Chron reported. Quan was not hurt in the incident and police found her purse a short time later. It was the second time that a city leader was victimized by crime recently. Earlier this month, Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente’s home was burglarized and thieves made off with his wife’s computer. Both Quan and De La Fuente, however, do not believe they were targeted because of their positions.

6. Former President Bill Clinton plans to campaign for Jerry Brown, and other California Democrats, after all, despite Brown’s recent gaffe — making fun of the Monica Lewinsky affair, the Chron reported. After Brown apologized for the ill-advised joke, Clinton announced his endorsement of the former Oakland mayor. Brown’s opponent, meanwhile, Meg Whitman, continues to run a misleading TV ad that shows Clinton criticizing Brown in 1992 for allegedly raising taxes during his first two terms as governor. Clinton has since admitted that recanted his criticism because it was based on an inaccurate news report.

7. California’s job losses mounted last month, as the Bay Area lost about 3,800 jobs in August and the East Bay shed 2,000 positions total, the CoCo Times reported. Overall, California employers jettisoned 33,500 jobs as the state’s unemployment rate increased to 12.4 percent.

8. And the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is beginning to look more like a stagnant lake or lagoon than a vibrant estuary because of continued water diversions for agriculture and Southern California, the CoCo Times reported.

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