Safety and Enforcement Blog

CPUC Continues Investigation of PG&E Pipeline Explosion in Fresno to Determine Cause of Pipeline Failure

(Natural Gas Pipeline Safety, Utility Enforcement) Permanent link

The CPUC is investigating last Friday’s (April 17, 2015) PG&E pipeline explosion in Fresno. Upon learing of the explosion on Friday the CPUC immediately sent a team to Fresno to determine the cause of the explosion and whether there were any violations of State or Federal law by PG&E.  

While the in-depth analysis that is being performed by the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division will take some time to complete, the CPUC will work as expeditiously as possible, with assistance from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. 

During the course of the investigation the CPUC will determine the physical cause of the pipeline rupture and explosion, validate if there was an active 811 call-before-you-dig ticket, verify the accuracy of utility maps and other records, assess PG&E’s emergency response performance, and evaluate any factors contributing to the incident. Safety and Enforcement Division staff will also monitor PG&E’s repair activities on the damaged pipeline to ensure that it is fully repaired before it is brought back into service.

From initial information, it appears that there was a Fresno County employee performing work in the vicinity of a pipeline and that there was no active 811 call-before-you-dig ticket. The CPUC’s investigation will determine whether this was the primary cause of the explosion. 

The CPUC reminds everyone - whether you are a contractor replacing grass with drought-resistant plants, or are planting a tree in your backyard - to call 811 before you dig to have your underground facilities marked. Read more about 811:

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CPUC Supports National Safe Digging Month; Reminds Californians To Call 811 Before Digging

(Natural Gas Pipeline Safety) Permanent link

The CPUC, in support of April as the National Safe Digging Month, reminds Californians to call 811 prior to any digging project in order to have underground utility lines marked.

Every year the month of April is designated National Safe Digging Month, the time of year when industry stakeholders come together to communicate how important it is that professionals and homeowners alike call 811 and follow the safe digging process to help prevent injuries, property damage, and outages. The CPUC also reminds residents within master-metered mobilehome parks to notify park management of all intended excavation activities by residents or a contractor performing excavation work on behalf of a resident.

It is important that people doing work or projects that require digging into the ground – from those making small holes for lawn and garden projects to contractors digging up pavement – call 811 to know what’s below before they begin digging in order to eliminate the risk of striking an underground utility line and injuring themselves, their families, or neighbors.

When calling 811, professionals and homeowners are connected to a local one-call center, which notifies its member utility companies of the intent to dig. Within two business days (not including weekends and holidays) utilities will locate and mark, using flags or spray paint, the approximate location of their facilities that are within the designated work area. Otherwise, the utilities will provide notification that they have no facilities in that area. In the case of master-metered mobilehome parks, park management needs to provide the location of master-metered subsurface facilities.

Striking a single subsurface facility can result in significant injuries or damages to the excavator and the nearby public, as well as fines and inconvenient outages. Anyone excavating should always exercise care even when using only hand tools to dig in the proximity of marked facilities. Every excavation project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, putting in a fence, building a deck, and laying a patio are all examples of excavation projects for which 811 should be called well before starting the project. In the case of master-metered mobilehome parks, residents should call 811, and also notify park management, before excavating within the park.

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects, and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. Marks provided by utilities do not provide depth of facilities, nor should depth of facilities be ever assumed. Failure to call before excavating results in more than hundreds of thousands of unintentional hits annually.