After PG&E Falsified Records, Levine Measure to Improve Underground Gas Pipeline Safety Signed Into Law

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – In the wake of several natural gas pipeline disasters, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed AB 1166 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D- North Bay) into law, which will require natural gas utilities to supply “electronic positive response” to regional utility notification centers before excavations.  Regional utility notification centers are then required to make those responses available to public or private excavators. 

Levine’s legislation was approved only days before Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) agreed to a $5 million penalty and pay $60 million in shareholder funds to prevent future accidental damage to underground facilities that, if hit during digging, could result in an explosion or electrocution. 

Between 2012 and 2017, PG&E was accused of violating state law at least 170,000 times by falsifying records showing how employees handled requests to mark underground equipment prior to excavations. In 2015, two people were killed and twelve others injured when heavy machinery cut into two underground natural gas pipelines in Fresno and Bakersfield. These were but two of the more than 5,000 natural gas pipelines struck in 2015 alone.

To ensure the safety of excavation crews and the public, AB 1166 would strengthen current underground natural gas transmission infrastructure monitoring by requiring natural gas transmission infrastructure to be actively identified using electronic positive response before an excavation can begin. This information would also be made available online for use by utilities or construction companies. This information will help prevent future underground natural gas leaks and explosions caused by excavation workers, protect the public and save lives of residents throughout California.

“The Southern California Contractors Association commends Assemblymember Levine on his authorship and passage of AB 1166,” stated Wes May, Executive Vice-President of the Southern California Contractors Association.  “Ensuring the excavation community receives accurate and timely information about the location of potentially dangerous underground utilities is critical to the protection of our workforce.  AB 1166 makes sure we receive the green light before we begin construction.”

Amparo Munoz, a member of the Dig Safe Board that oversees excavation safety for underground infrastructure also supported AB 1166, adding a requirement for electronic positive response, “is a huge step for public safety.”

“The alarming number of Californians that have been harmed or killed from natural gas explosions must end,” said Assemblymember Levine. “With the most advanced technology available, there is no reason that these incidents continue to harm communities throughout the state. AB 1166 centralizes underground natural gas infrastructure information in a smart way that will make it easier for construction workers to stay safe on the job and for residents to stay safe in their homes, schools or businesses.”

AB 1166 takes effect on January 1, 2020.