SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, PG&E’s President of Gas Nick Stavropoulos called on the U.S. natural gas industry to increase contractor education and outreach about the significant safety risks associated with reckless digging and to step up enforcement of companies that don’t follow the law. In 2015, excavation companies struck natural gas pipelines 1,900 times in Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) 70,000 square mile service area. Many of these dig-ins resulted in completely preventable gas leaks that impact the safety of 16 million Californians.
“For the sake of public safety, we must do everything we can to reduce dig-ins on critical infrastructure. This means continued education and when necessary, taking legal action against repeat offenders. My personal goal, and our company goal, is to eliminate dig-ins everywhere,” Stavropoulos said during his remarks during the Common Ground Alliance’s (CGA) Excavation Safety Conference.
As part of a national effort to raise awareness of this critical issue, Stavropoulos addressed hundreds of U.S. natural gas and liquid pipeline operators, and other underground utility and sewer companies, about the importance of safe-digging practices on Wednesday, March 9 at the Common Ground Alliance conference in Las Vegas. He spoke about PG&E’s aggressive and proactive approach toward eliminating dig-ins through public awareness, education and when necessary, enforcement. During the conference, PG&E’s Senior Vice President of Gas Operations Jesus Soto was presented with the seventh annual CGA President’s Corporate Excellence Award. The President’s Award is given annually to an organization that has shown leadership and innovation in support of damage prevention during the previous year. According to CGA, PG&E was awarded for its overall leadership in damage prevention.
Stavropoulos noted that PG&E’s new proactive contractor and customer education efforts led to a 13 percent reduction in the number of dig-ins from 2014 to 2015. He credits PG&E’s new Dig-in Reduction Team (DiRT), aerial surveillance of unreported excavation, and the 811 Employee Ambassador Program as key contributors to the overall decline in dig-ins.
While a majority of the 1,900 dig-ins in 2015 occurred on PG&E’s gas distribution lines, two third party transmission system strikes led to fatalities in the communities of Fresno and Bakersfield, Calif. Both of these incidents were preventable had the excavation companies followed California digging laws.
Stavropoulos underscored the danger posed to contractors that don’t comply with state law. “It’s not just about damaging our facilities, it’s about whether you may or may not come home to your family at the end of the day. That’s a powerful message,” he said.
PG&E is among the leading U.S. utilities taking action against contractors that fail to utilize safe excavation practices, especially those that qualify as repeat offenders. PG&E recognizes contractors that consistently follow necessary safety protocols around digging, through its “Gold Shovel Standard” program.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page.