Along Highway 99 between Yuba City and Live Oak, the Pacific Gas Electric Co. is replacing a natural gas line dating to the days of the Eisenhower administration.
But a company spokeswoman said Monday that the 3,000 feet of line being replaced shouldn’t be thought of as prone to imminent failure and pending disaster.
“Over the past year, we’ve been working on our gas distribution and transmission system, and this is part of that,” said Brittany McKannay, a spokeswoman for the utility company. “We want to keep the line at the right pressure to meet demand now and in the future.”
Work on the line, which runs north-south about 50 yards west of Highway 99, with the southern end near Encinal Road, began about a month ago. Though the project was planned to take about two months, McKannay said, it’s possible recent rainy weather may push back the completion date.
Crews are replacing a line first installed in 1954, with a 16-inch transmission line. The line runs mostly through an orchard, though both the highway and Union Pacific Railroad tracks are nearby.
A line of similar age in a San Bruno residential neighborhood ruptured in 2010, killing eight people and destroying dozens of homes. But McKannay said the line replacement project isn’t directly connected to the 2010 incident.
“If there’s any one situation that poses a public safety risk, we address it immediately,” she said.
Still, a watchdog group covering PGE and other utility companies said it’s impossible to know what prompted PGE to replace the line.
“Obviously, there’s a huge interest in customer safety among the public, and we hope there’s a huge interest by PGE,” said Minda Spatt, communications director for The Utility Reform Network. “Is this something they’ve known about for a long time, or discovered recently?”
Spatt said what concerns her group the most is, with PGE now doing more to make its natural gas lines safer, the cost isn’t being borne by ratepayers, but instead comes out of company profits.
PGE has filed requests with the state Public Utilities Commission to raise its rates to pay for pipeline upgrades.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.