pg&e_meter.jpgPacific Gas & Electirc reached a settlement today in San Francisco with the California Public Utilities Commission, which now requires the utility giant to release safety reports of its gas transmission lines in light of a massive explosion last year that killed eight people.

The settlement, titled the Gas Accord V, will enable CPUC officials to better monitor PG&E’s pipeline requirements following the Sept. 9 explosion of a segment underneath San Bruno’s Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood that killed eight people and damaged more than 50 homes.

“This settlement means a higher level of accountability for PG&E,” said Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, one organization PG&E settled with.

The report, titled the Gas Transmission and Storage Safety Report, will provide the CPUC and the public with information that tracks money spent on gas transmission line projects over a four-year period.

“It’s an issue of concern on our part,” CPUC spokesman Andrew Kotch said.

TURN pushed for this settlement following the explosion of Line 132 under San Bruno, and after the public learned of a 2008 decision by PG&E to re-prioritize about $5 million received from customers that was initially slated to repair another part of the line running through South San Francisco.

“Now, if the money isn’t spent on safety, it has to be returned to customers, instead of pocketed,” Spatt said.

In addition to the new report, PG&E officials also revised their schedule for increasing utility fees to customers between 2011 and 2014. The company will now receive $95 million less in revenue than what they originally requested to the CPUC for rate hikes over the same time period, Spatt said.

Under the new agreement, a typical natural gas customer will experience about a 0.7 percent increase in their monthly bill between 2011 and 2014, according to the CPUC.

PG&E has received increased scrutiny by the CPUC and policymakers in the months following the explosion last year.

About a month ago, commissioners announced they would consider fining PG&E up to $6 million for failing to provide documentation justifying pressure levels in the utility’s gas transmission lines.

In addition, the company complied with CPUC orders in February to reduce pressure on four of its natural gas transmission lines after commissioners learned they were running over maximum levels for several years.

Pressure on lines running through Milpitas, San Jose, Watsonville and Aptos Hills was reduced to 20 percent below their maximum allowable operating pressure in February.

“In the past, they haven’t been held accountable,” Spatt said. “We think this settlement will bring a higher level of transparency.”

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

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