PG&E Draws Record Fine; Transco Bows to Feds on Rockaway Line; Activists Training Area Residents to Spot Pipeline Violations in Pennsylvania

May 8th, 2013 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, NYC Natural Gas Infrastructure

NatGas Consulting

A natural gas explosion in San Bruno, Calfornia, on Sept. 9, 2010, touched off an enormous fire that destroyed an entire neighborhood, killing eight people. The California PUC yesterday recommended that PG&E pay a record $2.25 billion fine for their role in the deadly incident.

The California Public Utilities Commission yesterday recommended a record $2.25 billion fine be levied against Pacific Gas & Electric for the utility’s role in the massive explosion that killed eight people and destroyed an entire neighborhood in San Bruno, California, two years ago.

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“I am recommending the highest penalty possible against PG&E, without compromising safety and I want every penny of it to go toward making PG&E’s system safer,” Brigadier General (CA) Jack Hagan, the Director of the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division, said in a press release announcing the recommendation.

The fine, Hagan said, represents the largest penalty ever levied by a state regulator.

The $2.25 billion, according to the documents detailing the proposed penalty, would include the estimated $1 billion that PG&E has already spent on pipeline safety efforts, and would have to be paid by the company’s shareholders – as opposed to ratepayers. PG&E would also be subject to regular third-party audits to ensure that the utility does not underspend in other areas to offset the cost of the proposed penalty.

Andrew Kotch, a spokesperson for the CPUC, told NaturalGasWatch.org that PG&E will, “file its reply to the recommendations of the Safety and Enforcement Division and other intervenors on May 24, 2013; the Safety and Enforcement Division and intervenors will then file any replies to PG&E on June 5, 2013. A CPUC decision is expected in late summer.”

You can read the CPUC press release here: CPUC PG&E-San Bruno fine press release.

You can read the 70-page, CPUC staff recommendation here: CPUC staff recommendation for PG&E fine.

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This aerial photograph submitted by the Williams Companies to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in connection with the company's application to build a new natural gas pipeline through the Jacob Riis Beach in the Gateway National Recreation Area, shows the route of the proposed pipeline.

After initially insisting that they knew best, officials at the Williams Company agreed recently to redesign their Rockaway Lateral project to conform with a suggestion from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that the underwater portion of the pipeline be buried at least four feet under the sea floor, according to documents obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org.

Williams’ initial plan included specifications showing that the pipeline would be located at a depth of three feet – which was just fine, the company said.

In a March 19 response to the USACE, Williams Manager Tim Perry stated that the four-foot requirement would needlessly delay the project and force cost overruns, adding that, “Transco has extensive experience constructing and operating offshore pipelines. … Therefore, we believe our design balances full protection of the pipeline while minimizing environmental impacts. … Transco believes the measures described above, which provide a depth of at least 3 feet of cover when fully implemented, provide a more than adequate level of protection.”

Under the plans for a new natural gas pipeline proposed by the Williams Companies, the Jacob Riis Park beach would be turned into a construction zone for a new natural gas pipeline that would bring fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale play into New York City.

Transco, a division of Williams Partners LP, filed an application on Jan. 7 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking permission to build the controversial new natural gas distribution pipeline through national park land to bring additional natural gas supply from the hydraulic fracturing wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale Play into New York City.

Known as the Rockaway Lateral Line, the proposed 26-inch, high-pressure natural gas pipeline would run across wetlands in Jamaica Bay, through Jacob Riis Park beach and Floyd Bennett Field – where a new compressor station would be built – and on into Brooklyn near Flatbush Ave.

FERC recently issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Rockaway Lateral line. The agency is seeking public input on the matter and comments must be submitted no later than May 27. Comments can be submitted here.

You can read the entire response from Williams to FERC here: Williams Response – Rockaway Line Recommendations

You can see details of the proposal project here: Williams Response – Attachment 1 – Revised Figures

You can see photos taken by Williams of the recreation areas that will be destroyed here: Williams Response – Attachment 2 Photographs

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The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is offering free training to area residents so that people who live and work where natural gas pipeline are being built can spot pipeline safety violations as they occur.

From the DRN website:

For these pipeline watch trainings, DRN will teach participants a visual assessment that will be used to help document potential pollution originating from the Tennessee Gas Pipeline construction practices, especially during times of rain when sediment pollution can greatly affect the health of surrounding waterbodies.  By having a trained corps of local Pipeline Watchers on the ground and reporting issues to agencies, we can help hold these large corporations accountable when they pollute.

The training session is set for May 20, in Montague, New Jersey, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, contact DRN’s Monitoring Director at  faith@delawareriverkeeper.org or call 215-369-1188, ext 110.

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One Comment to “PG&E Draws Record Fine; Transco Bows to Feds on Rockaway Line; Activists Training Area Residents to Spot Pipeline Violations in Pennsylvania”

  1. Reynolds T-Norman says:

    This is a great article, and I see that we still have until May 27 to submit comments. It would seem that the Texas based company is assuming approval from FERC, as they have already started laying the pipe along the road in the BIKE LANE on Flatbush Ave between Bell Parkway and the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge like it is a done deal. I would like to think they would need a city permit to block a bike lane, and would like to know how they got it. I filmed the pipeline as we drove along Flatbush avenue: that is a couple of minutes of footage already.

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