NTSB Faults PG&E, Regulators and Politics in Pipeline Gas Explosion that Killed 8 in San Bruno


A federal safety panel blamed a series of missteps by one of the nation’s largest gas companies for the largest pipeline accident in a decade, a suburban San Francisco explosion that killed eight people and incinerated a neighborhood.

Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the horrific gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, California was the result of a “litany of failures” by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

Series of missteps:
Inadequate inspection programs

An integrity management program without integrity

Ignored ample warnings that gas line welds may have had dangerous flaws

CPUC failed to detect safety flaws at PG&E

Poor emergency response plan for prolonged incidents

Lax federal and state regulations

The company was also criticized for spending too much effort lobbying to block stronger regulations that could have prevented the disaster. PG&E and industry lobbyists successfully blocked recommendations for the use of automatic shut-off valves instead of manual valves to allow rapid shut down when a problem starts. PG&E claimed the efforts would result in high costs and uncertain effectiveness. A PG&E engineer wrote federal regulators that quicker shut down of gas “may give the public a false sense of security.”