Leaky safety system

PG&E’s questionable leak-inspection system

Prior to 2008, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. relied on a safety system that provided incentives for crews to report fewer leaks and keep repair costs down.

Before the incentive-based inspection system was abandoned, the company handed out bonuses to supervisors with crews reporting the fewest leaks, according to an investigative report in the San Francisco Chronicle. An internal company audit conducted in April 2008 found that the policy was producing inaccurate surveys. The audit prompted an inspection of their entire gas transmission system, which found more leaks than crews had previously reported. State regulators, dissatisfied with the pace of their work, found that virtually every leak survey the company had conducted since 2004 was “not effective” and urged PG&E to expedite the process.

Repairs on the lines had not been completed before the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.