Jackie in the News
Ex-PG&E manager says key records possibly trashed
San Francisco Chronicle
By Jaxon Van Derbeken
A former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. record-keeping manager told federal investigators that a top PG&E official recently acknowledged to him that the utility had likely tossed some of its missing pipeline records, according to a transcript of his interview released Thursday.
"If they couldn't identify what it was, it probably just got s- canned," the pipeline engineering official reportedly told the manager-turned-whistle-blower, Larry Medina, during a June 27 interview regarding last year's catastrophic natural gas pipeline blast in San Bruno.
He said the comment was made as he talked to the PG&E official late last year about what might have happened to pipeline records that had previously long been kept on the 10th floor of a company office on Mission Street in San Francisco.
Any records that were not discarded ended up at the company's office in Walnut Creek, Medina said he was told.
PG&E did not comment on any of the documents or interview transcripts released Thursday, but instead issued a general statement recounting its efforts to assure safety in the wake of the Sept. 9 blast in San Bruno, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
Medina has become an important figure in the government investigation because PG&E has yet to find key documents related to the San Bruno line, including copies of drawings showing how the line was rerouted at the blast site in 1956.
Key documents missing
Medina, who left PG&E in 1993 and is now a records management official at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, warned the company at the time he left, in a memo, that its flawed record-keeping methods "may be costly to PG&E in the future."
He said officials seemed to realize the importance of the two memos, which he recently turned over to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough. She passed them along to officials of the National Transportation Safety Board, which released them Thursday.
That agency's investigators are focusing on PG&E's flawed record-keeping, which is also the target of a state investigation, as they seek to find the root cause of the San Bruno blast.
Federal investigators have discovered that the pipe in San Bruno failed at an incomplete seam weld that PG&E didn't realize was in the line, because its computerized records said the pipe was seamless. The company never conducted an inspection that might have detected the problem weld.
Before he disclosed the memos, Medina recalled that his "blood boiled" when he heard that the utility could not find many documents related to its gas transmission system and the San Bruno line that ruptured. Medina said he had been paid for 10 years to manage the records of the line.
So he set about trying to tell PG&E officials about where the records might be found. He told investigators that the company had long kept three sets of documents about each of its lines and had stored microfilmed copies of key drawings and other documents in a vault in Kern County.
Medina said he twice left messages with Kirk Johnson, PG&E's vice president of gas operations, about the records issue in October and November. He said he did not hear back, and so finally tracked down and talked to Luano Nomellini, a pipeline engineering group director, in December.
Medina said he asked whether anyone had looked for the missing records in a storage area on the 10th floor of a PG&E building on Mission Street.
"So what happened to the stuff?" Medina said he asked. Nomellini, he said, explained that records were sent to PG&E's Walnut Creek office, but that if they were unmarked or unidentifiable, they were likely discarded.
Nomellini said he would "try to talk to some people, see what he could find out about what happened to the stuff ... and he might get back to me," Medina recounted. The PG&E official never did and Medina eventually contacted Speier.
Medina later told the safety board that, while at PG&E, he had to constantly remind officials about the need to keep the right records in order to comply with state and federal safety rules.
"So every time they wanted to cut our budget," he said, "I would press the play button on the side of my neck and state (the law) to remind people we had an obligation to maintain drawings of all facilities that were in operation that accurately depicted the condition."
Medina said he came forward only to help authorities find any missing records.
"I have no intent to harm PG&E in any way," Medina said, describing himself as a "third generation" employee as well as a stockholder, ratepayer and future pensioner. Given what he called his "entwined relationship" with the company, he stressed that his only goal was "to see this come to a resolution."
"I feel very sorry for the people who were harmed when this incident occurred and any others that may be harmed from the lack of information being available," he said. "But I know this information did exist and I have a feeling that it may still exist."
Click here to read the original article.