PANEL ON SAN BRUNO EXPLOSION SAYS PG&E HAS “DYSFUNCTIONAL” CORPORATE CULTURE . . .
BUT IBEW FIRST RESPONDERS ARE CALLED
A report issued June 9 by a state panel investigating the 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno was heavily critical of PG&E safety practices, and charged the California Public Utilities Commission with being weak on oversight.
The report scored PG&E for “excessive levels of management,” saying that the management that is “setting the direction” is distant from “those who know the business the best.”
It said the company has an “inconsistent presence” of subject matter experts in management ranks, impairing the effectiveness of the organization. Investigators say they found an “insular mindset” among company officials it interviewed, which threatened to breed “a corporate myopia.”
In a business where there is “no substitute for long-term planning and careful execution,” the report said, PG&E appears to have “an elevated concern about the company’s image.” It dismissed PG&E’s recently announced “Pipeline 2020” plan as “grossly underdeveloped” and suggested that the timing of its release had more to do with media relations than actually addressing the problem. “Putting forth a major initiative without having done the necessary work underneath ultimately undermines the company’s credibility with its employees as well as the public,” the report said. It accused PG&E of engaging in “appearance-led strategy setting.”
The report was critical of PG&E’s “overemphasis on financial performance,” noting that it can “dampen the willingness” of others in the organization “to challenge the priorities or resources put in place by upper management.”
The report was also critical of the CPUC, saying the regulatory body does not have the staff to oversee California’s 11,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines. Furthermore, the staff it does have is not trained well enough to do the regulatory work with which the agency is entrusted, the report said.
The report adopted a different tone in referring to the IBEW “field personnel” who responded to the disaster, referring to them as heroes:
“[W]e observed had it not been for the experience and quick reaction of the first responders from PG&E, the San Bruno Incident could have been even worse. The field personnel who returned to duty after hours to close the pipeline valves — apparently without being dispatched by PG&E— are among the true heroes of this tragedy. These were tenured employees who had the training, experience, and mindset to take the initiative and respond.”
Read more in the report’s Executive Summary.