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PG&E In the Hot Seat Again After San Francisco Gas Line Explosion

A gas line operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. exploded yesterday, sending flames high into the air, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, adding that the explosion set five buildings around the line on fire.

The explosion, it turned out, had occurred by accident, when a member of a Verizon crew working on the same street struck the gas line.

It took the company two hours to put it out, the daily reports, because, as explained by a PG & E’s spokesman, the crew had to cut the asphalt to get to the line and turn off a valve to stop the flow by hand, with shovels. The reason they could not use machinery was that the line was too close to the surface and the risk of an accidental spark igniting another blast would have been too great.

“You can imagine having to hand-dig in asphalt. It takes time,” company spokesman Blair Jones said. “It’s also very cold right now. If we do this wrong, we shut off gas to potentially hundreds, maybe thousands more people in San Francisco, so we’re trying to do this in a way that is safe.”

As a result of the blast 2,500 residents in the surrounding area were left without electricity and 300 gas customers were cut off. Within a few hours however, electricity supply was restored to most of the affected households.

Related: Oil And Gas In Spotlight At State Of The Union

An investigation by the company is underway now. The Chronicle notes that the utility is required by law to mark its underground lines upon request from another company planning to do excavation work in areas that contain these lines. In this case, the PG & E spokesman confirmed the Verizon contractor whose team struck the line had sent a request for line marking but did not say whether the utility had done the marking.

PG&E has been previously accused by state regulators of falsifying its line marking reports: a practice that has gone on for years, according to an earlier report by the San Francisco Chronicle. Workers, according to an investigation, falsified the speed with which they responded to requests for line markings. The law says responses have to be made within two days of the request.

PG&E filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week after facing liabilities for wildfires it was accused of having a hand in starting in Northern California in 2017 and 2018.

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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