PG&E Will Reveal Pipeline Locations -- Sort Of

Look! There's one!
In the wake of the San Bruno disaster, a number of environmental and First Amendment types have demanded PG&E disclose the routes of its riskiest gas pipes. The utility provider has declined, however, citing the risk that terrorists could capitalize on that sort of information. As we noted yesterday, "a cynic might say PG&E is concerned outsiders will blow up its pipes before it does."

The utility giant will, however, reveal to renters and owners if they reside near a subterranean pipe. Spokesman Brian Swanson said customers can dial (800) 743-5000 and make their entreaties.

Callers will have to prove they live where they say they live -- your phone number or account number will have to match the one on PG&E's file. Customers will subsequently receive a letter informing them of "the general location of where pipelines exist near their homes." The age of that pipeline, incidentally, will not be disclosed.

Those hoping to know if they work, study, or frequent bars and restaurants near a pipeline are out of luck. Swanson says you'll have to get your office building's landlord, the school, or the watering hole owner to make the same call.

Since early last decade, federal regulations have required "pipeline operators to carry out a continuing public education program to advise municipalities, school districts, businesses, and residents about a variety of pipeline safety-related matters, including pipeline locations." By PG&E's definition, the aforementioned process suffices.

In other PG&E news, in response to the Chronicle's thorough article today revealing the utility company's own documents noted the possibility of corrosion in the pipe that detonated in San Bruno, utility spokeswoman Katie Romans said she could not identify anything inaccurate in the paper's front-page report.

She confirmed that "filters had collapsed," leading to compressor oil to build up in regulator stations in the South Peninsula. While PG&E solved this problem with a fix, Romans noted that corrosion induced by liquid pooling within the pipelines "could potentially lead to problems down the road." In other words, PG&E's fix may have come too late to stop corrosion from setting in -- with disastrous consequences.

Whether this situation led to last week's explosion and fire "is under investigation, and the NTSB is leading that investigation."

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