Electrical, not gas, PG&E's biggest problem

Oct. 1, 2010 at 7:20 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Last month's natural gas explosion in San Bruno, Calif., has investigators focusing on pipelines, but critics say the electrical system gets short shrift.

Pacific Gas & Electric has investigators checking the age and condition of natural gas pipelines, their operations and maintenance records, but public officials and customers say they suffer too many electrical blackouts at the hands of PG&E, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

"They get money for maintenance, and then they find other priorities to shift the money to, and the maintenance doesn't get done," said Bob Finkelstein, legal director for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer watchdog group.

Mark Johnson, PG&E vice president for electric operations and engineering, said the company based in San Francisco often has to change spending priorities based on emerging needs.

"Even though we made some deferrals, those items we considered the highest priority, the highest risk, we continued to work on," Johnson said. "We don't think we put the general public at risk."

PG&E's electricity system includes more than 141,000 miles of distribution lines spread across 47 of California's 58 counties, the Chronicle said.

Much of the electrical system dates back to California's post-World War II building boom. Some pieces go back to the 1920s.

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