In a stunning move, the California Public Utilities Commission today announced an investigation of several natural gas utilities in the Los Angles are.
“Yesterday representatives of the PUC did an impromptu audit of several several natural gas utilities in the Los Angeles area. We discovered several irregularities in their system maintenance records,” said Julio Ortega, a PUC commissioner.
Most notably, according to Ortega, serial numbers of several regulators (devices that decrease the pressure of natural gas from the feeder lines to the residential lines) did not match with maintenance records.
Ortega stated that this may indicate that some of these regulators were reported as replaced when they actually were not replaced.
“While there is no evidence, as of yet, that these irregularities resulted in the several explosions and fires in the area, we are sending digital forensics teams to each of these utilities to investigate further,” Ortega said.
“In all likelihood, this is a bookkeeping error,” said Hector Vasquez, spokesperson for SoCal Gas.
“Clearly, such a discrepancy is intolerable, and those responsible will be punished. But it’s extremely unlikely this has anything to do with the Los Angeles area fires,” Vasquez said.
When pressed for answers, Commissioner Ortega said, “We cannot state as a matter-of-fact that this is the cause of the fires, but we are looking into it as a possibility.”
“Initial reports from our fire marshals do not indicate natural gas explosions,” said LA County Fire Chief Darrin Rossby.
“While we cannot rule out a natural gas explosion, we have found certain evidence that leads us in different directions,” Rossby said.
Rossby refused to comment further or give any more details, saying, “Our Fire Marshal forensics lab is investigating this evidence, and we expect their report within the next day. “