On Tuesday, September 20th, the city is embarking upon the next chapter of this disaster. At a crater-filling event, city officials, community leaders, and residents will dump the first ceremonial shovels of dirt into the crater. The event is intended to be the turning point for a community left with more questions than answers in the year after the September 9th tragedy.
But at the same time the community is preparing for its next steps, Pacific Gas and Electric is taking its safety standards a step backwards. Today, the company will ask the California Public Utility Commission to officially approve a substandard method of testing that uses fewer, lower pressure tests, than the currently approved double hydrostatic tests.
PG&E has already used the lower-pressure tests, despite an agreement with the CPUC to only use a high-pressure, double water test to identify weakened or faulty welds in its pipes. The inconvenience for PG&E is that the hydrostatic tests require the gas line to be temporarily shut down.
The proposed tests are faster, which would allow the utility to boost pressure in its pipelines before the winter’s cooler weather increases demand. However, it is less comprehensive and in the Post-San Bruno Era, it may be contrary to improving safety standards. It certainly is contrary to improving public appearances of safety.