Winter 2013      |      Stephen P. Sands, Registrar      |      Edmund G. Brown Jr., Governor


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Pipeline Break Cases Unearthed by PG&E, Investigated by CSLB


An estimated 60 percent of pipeline breaches are committed by contractors and the majority of line breaks occur during unauthorized digs. This information was shared with CSLB by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) earlier this year when it asked for assistance in identifying ways to help reverse a recent upswing in pipeline breaks. In 2012, there were 1,754 reported incidents of damage to utility lines in PG&E's service territory.

Anyone who digs into the ground in conjunction with a construction project must call 8-1-1 – in advance – to request line markings through one of California's Underground Service Alert (USA) notification centers.

Contractors who damage natural gas pipelines during unauthorized digs can expect much closer scrutiny from CSLB, which is authorized to take legal action against licensees for negligent pipeline breaks (Business and Profession Code § 7110). As of December 2013, CSLB has investigated 13 pipeline damage complaints that were lodged by PG&E.

CSLB reviews allegations and issues a decision that can range from dismissal of the case (usually for lack of clear-cut evidence) to license revocation in the most serious instances. Those who fail to call 8-1-1 also are subject to a fine of up to $50,000, and can be held responsible for any repair costs.

Notification failures carry serious public consequences: leaking natural gas from a punctured line can explode, while those who strike an electrical line are at risk of electrocution. Damaged conduits that carry fiber optic or telephone cables can disrupt services to the community that result in costly repairs.

Other utility companies have taken notice of the CSLB-PG&E effort. Representatives of Sempra Energy, which operates Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), are scheduled to meet with CSLB staff in Norwalk about pipeline break incidents in the Southern California region.

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