Before Pipeline Explosion Calif. Utility Spent Millions on Political Campaigning

-By Warner Todd Huston

Back in September of 2010, a gas pipeline running underneath the city of San Bruno, California ruptured. The resulting explosion killed eight people. A recently finished investigation has revealed safety and engineering failures at many levels but, sadly, even the state agency charged with investigating seems to be hoping that the failures are hushed up. Why? Politics, of course.

Dennis Wyatt of the Manteca Bulletin read the new report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the government agency charged with investigating the failures that led to the disaster, and he finds that the CPUC report “comes off more of a lapdog” than it does a watchdog of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

The failed pipeline was built in 1956 and ran under the intersection of Glenview Drive and Earl Avenue in a residential section of the city. The section that failed (Line 132) exploded killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. 70 more homes were damaged by the explosion, 18 were left uninhabitable.

But even though the pipeline was laid in 1956, the investigation found that the welds and engineering of the project did not even meet the safety and other standards of the 50’s nor was the pipeline been properly assessed for safety today. Other failures were discovered, as well.

The government found that dealing with PG&E was difficult because of the obstinate “culture” of the energy producer, PG&E had a deficient system of records keeping, PG&E was admirably focused on the safety of its employees but was not as interested in the safety of the public, training of third party vendors was lacking or nonexistent, and post earthquake inspections went unperformed. There were many, many other systemic failures, was well.

Wyatt reports that PG&E did not fund many safety programs that it should have. Yet, the energy provider spent at least $46 million on Prop 16 in a “failed attempt to get voters to amend the California constitution to provide PG&E with a guaranteed monopoly.”

This $43 million is on top of the many millions in fines that PG&E had already paid for other safety violations going back several years.

What ever is going on between PG&E and CPUC, it certainly seems that the citizens of California are the last ones being considered.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

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