SAN FRANCISCO–An administrative law judge’s decision was issued this week that increases to $110 million the proposed settlement amount of $65 million that was submitted for California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approval by PG&E, the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division, and the Coalition of California Utility Employees.
Of the $110 million in penalties and fines, $66 million would go towards PG&E system enhancements to address the violations and to provide oversight of PG&E’s implementation and management of its Locate and Mark program, and $44 million would go to the state’s General Fund. If parties to the proceeding agree to the modified settlement within 20 days, and no Commissioner requests
Under California law, utilities have two working days to locate and mark the location of their underground facilities through the Underground Service Alert (USA) 811 system, unless the excavator specifies or agrees to a later deadline. This “Call Before You Dig” process ensures public safety by promptly identifying for third-party excavators all underground utility infrastructure including natural gas pipes and electric lines.
The CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division investigation found that PG&E undercounted many thousands of late Locate and Mark tickets from 2012 to 2017; gave the CPUC counts of its late Locate and Mark tickets that it knew were inaccurate; and failed to provide enough trained staff to timely locate and mark underground natural gas pipelines and electric facilities. The problems were not corrected for years and senior management failed to take action even when they became aware of the issues. PG&E admits some tickets were intentionally falsified and that its failure to properly administer the program may have contributed to 67 dig-ins including an injury to a City of San Jose employee.