SAN FRANCISCO–The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a staff Citation of $3.3 million to Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) for failure to properly and timely investigate a gas incident that occurred on January 20, 2017, in Ontario, Calif.
The underlying incident involved a SoCalGas leaking pipeline and a subsequent ignition/explosion with an injury. The CPUC’s staff investigation remains active because of SoCalGas’ failure to properly determine the cause(s) of the failure and minimize the possibility of recurrence in accordance with federal code, SoCalGas’ own procedures, and the Public Utilities Code.
Despite a directive from the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) in November 2018, and subsequent agreement by SED and SoCalGas to test the pipeline on January 10, 2019, SoCalGas unilaterally cancelled the agreement and informally notified SED that they will not test until their civil settlements are complete. SED finds SoCalGas’ reason for not performing the test insufficient, as they are putting civil litigation exposure in front of public safety. From SED’s perspective, SoCalGas remains in continuing violation until they properly test the failed pipeline to determine cause and ensure sufficient corrective actions.
Throughout the incident investigation, SoCalGas did not take adequate investigative steps and cooperate with the SED to prevent recurrence as required by law. Therefore, SED found SoCalGas in violations of CPUC General Order 112-F, Title 49 CFR section 192.13(c), and Public Utilities Code sections 702, 451.
SoCalGas has 30 calendar days from receipt of the Citation to pay or file an appeal.
SED has staff-level authority to issue Citations to regulated gas companies for violation of CPUC codes and regulations.
Safety violations are identified through SED’s ongoing audits, inspections, and investigations; by the utilities themselves through mandatory disclosure requirements; or through the CPUC’s whistleblower program for anonymous and protected reporting of violations.