San Carlos officials met with the California Public Utilities Commission yesterday over the next steps in validating the safety of a prominent city gas pipeline including the hiring of outside experts at a cost of $250,000.
The CPUC will conduct its own investigation but the technical consultants hired by San Carlos will provide another set of eyeballs, said City Manager Jeff Maltbie.
The San Carlos City Council will sign off on the general fund appropriation at Monday night’s meeting. Maltbie said the city will seek reimbursement from Pacific Gas and Electric once the safety matters are settled.
Maltbie said the CPUC hasn’t given a definitive timeline for its investigation but that, after PG&E submits records as required by next Wednesday, there will probably be more questions.
“It’s OK in this situation because the longer Line 147 remains shut down, the better. We want everybody to take all the time necessary to know it is safe,” Maltbie said.
The city-hired expert will also help the city wade through the records and process so officials don’t get weighed down by all the data and technical jargon, he said.
The city declared a state of emergency Friday night after the city learned of November 2012 emails by a PG&E engineer questioning the safety of 84-year-old gas transmission Line 147 which runs parallel to Brittan Avenue. The former engineer suggested the city could be “another San Bruno situation” in reference to the Sept. 9, 2010 gas line explosion and fire that killed eight, injured dozens and destroyed 38 homes. The engineer also questioned if hydrotesting in 2011 exacerbated cracking.
An amended report on the 3.8-mile line provided to the CPUC showed it tested to only 1.5 times the maximum allowable operating pressure.
Judge George Miram imposed an emergency injunction putting the line out of service and the CPUC followed suit. On Thursday, both PG&E and the city stipulated to lifting the injunction because the CPUC is the authoritative jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord emphasized the line was and is safe and that the company continues to talk with the city and the CPUC.
“We are very serious about being good neighbors and are committed to rebuilding the trust of our customers,” Chord said. “We know we have a long way to go.”
Chord said PG&E hopes to get the line back in service sooner rather than later to accommodate the cold winter months but the priority is first demonstrating its safety.
Maltbie said the city also has some concerns about other lines in the city like Line 101, which runs along Highway 101 but “we don’t have the smoking gun on that line.”
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102