Our Historic Impacts

PG&E continues to expand the application of sustainable principles, practices and technologies across active remediation projects.

As part of PG&E’s environmental commitment, we are proactively working to examine and address environmental impacts associated with historic company operations and those of predecessor companies. In 2013, PG&E engaged in approximately 150 environmental remediation projects in various phases of completion.

Our Approach

PG&E has a comprehensive program to address environmental remediation at sites throughout our service area. The program’s goal is to sustainably reduce or eliminate the remaining environmental impacts associated with historic operations, including divested power plants, former manufactured gas plants and various PG&E operating facilities. Working with local stakeholders is critical to our approach. We strive to support and engage local communities and reduce disruptions to our neighbors as much as possible during the cleanup process.

PG&E’s Natural Gas Compressor Stations

PG&E’s natural gas system includes approximately 42,500 miles of distribution pipeline and 6,700 miles of backbone and local transmission pipeline, serving 4.4 million commercial and residential gas customers. Essential to this system are eight gas compressor stations, which receive and move natural gas throughout the system.

PG&E used hexavalent chromium to prevent rust in cooling towers at two of these stations during the 1950s and 1960s—a common industry practice at the time and long before the environmental standards which we embrace today. These operations resulted in groundwater contamination that PG&E is working diligently to address.

Manufactured Gas Plants

PG&E continues to make significant progress with remediation at 41 Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) sites owned or operated by PG&E or its predecessor companies. In the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, before natural gas was available as an energy source, thousands of MGPs were located in cities and towns across the country, using coal and oil to produce gas for lighting, heating and cooking. With the arrival of natural gas in the 1930s, most of the MGP facilities in PG&E’s service area were closed and the properties put to other uses.

As we clean up these sites, PG&E is proactively engaging with the local communities to inform them of our activities. During the planning process, we work closely with neighboring residents and businesses to design a cleanup approach that will minimize the disruptions associated with the work, such as noise, dust, vibration and traffic. We also work to address community concerns that arise during the process and adjust our activities as needed.

Sustainable Remediation

PG&E continues to expand the application of sustainable principles, practices and technologies across active remediation projects. To do so, we have implemented guidance for sustainable remediation that was prepared and piloted with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

2013 Milestones

  • Completed Topock Compressor Station preliminary groundwater cleanup plan. At the Topock Compressor Station in San Bernardino County, we continue to make steady progress toward a final cleanup plan for contamination in and around the facility, which is located about a half mile from the Colorado River. PG&E is committed to conducting a timely and thorough cleanup of the site in collaboration with regulatory agencies, Native American tribes and other project and community stakeholders.

    We successfully completed the preliminary groundwater cleanup plan, known as the 60 Percent Design Phase, following a public review and comment process. The plan has now moved to the 90 Percent Design Phase, which will be reviewed by the agencies and tribes. PG&E also submitted a plan to complete the investigation of soil contamination in and around the compressor station. Until final steps can be undertaken, PG&E continues interim groundwater treatment measures that ensure the ongoing protection of the Colorado River.

    In 2013, we continued our outreach and collaboration with five Native American tribes to ensure they have the resources and information necessary to participate in important decisions related to the cleanup. Working in coordination with the regulatory agencies and tribes, we also implemented a stakeholder orientation program and provided site models to raise awareness about the cleanup and the cultural significance of the land near the compressor station.
  • Made significant remediation progress at the Hinkley Compressor Station. PG&E remains committed to protecting public health and safety while cleaning up the environment, restoring water quality and recognizing and responding to community concerns at the Hinkley Compressor Station.

    Interim steps have eliminated plume migration in key areas, and the highest levels of chromium contamination at the source area have been reduced through treatment techniques. In July of 2013, the Regional Water Board certified a final environmental impact report evaluating PG&E’s proposed remedial methods to contain and remediate the chromium plume and the potential environmental impacts.

    In 2013, PG&E implemented its plan to offer a whole-house water treatment program to residents who live within one mile of the boundary of the chromium 6 plume and whose groundwater well contains any detectable chromium 6. The purpose of the program was to help alleviate community members’ concerns about drinking water quality while the California Department of Public Health worked to set a final drinking water standard for chromium 6, which went into effect in July 2014. Throughout the first half of the year, PG&E installed treatment systems at nearly 40 homes and continued to provide interim bottled water to another 200 homes.

    Ongoing testing of the groundwater confirms that the water quality in domestic wells serving residents within the program boundaries fully meets the recently established safety standard. In light of this milestone, PG&E has notified local residents that it will phase out the water assistance programs.

    We’re committed to helping the community of Hinkley move forward by supporting initiatives to promote community vitality, including investments and partnerships focused on youth, health and wellness, education, and workforce development. For example, PG&E has developed an ongoing partnership with the Career Institute, an organization that specializes in career-building services for young adults, to provide job opportunities for local youth. We also co-sponsor a community health and resource fair, a community clean-up day and a holiday dinner event with the Hinkley Community Center, among other local initiatives.
  • Completed Hunters Point Power Plant decommissioning. In 2013, PG&E substantially completed remediation at the site of the former Hunters Point Power Plant, located along the southeastern waterfront of San Francisco. PG&E completed the final phase of plant decommissioning by sealing six large cooling-water tunnels beneath the site. To reduce its environmental footprint, the cement slurry used to seal the tunnels was prepared on-site reusing on-site materials and recycled water, which saved water and avoided the purchase and trucking of materials.

    As part of site restoration efforts, we enhanced native vegetation along the shoreline and elsewhere on the property, where a serpentine habitat is present. We also refurbished a pedestrian bridge connecting the site to an adjacent park and ecological center. In 2013, the project earned Wildlife at Work certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council.

    We also continued our commitment to hire 30 percent of the field staff from the local community. PG&E has also arranged recordings and listening events at the site in partnership with the nationally recognized nonprofit oral history project, StoryCorps, as a way to continue its legacy of community engagement and gather input on future uses of the site post-remediation.
  • Continued progress on Manufactured Gas Plant cleanups. One example is our completed remediation of the former Hollister MGP. Using sustainable best management practices and with the support of community and local nonprofit partners, PG&E removed 4,900 cubic yards of impacted soil and restored the site in accordance with the City of Hollister’s requirements.

    During remediation, PG&E contributed to the local economy by purchasing construction materials from local vendors. PG&E provided additional support by using other local supplies and staffing. The Hollister project was staffed, in part, with local community members identified in partnership with organizations such as Youth Alliance. PG&E also partnered with the Community Foundation of San Benito County, Hollister Downtown Association and San Benito Link to keep the community informed about the work.

Measuring Progress

Sustainable Remediation

In 2013, we tracked avoided environmental impacts from more than 75 remediation sites, which resulted from best practices such as:

  • The use of heavy construction/remediation equipment meeting Tier 3 and Tier 4 federal emission standards;
  • Use of standard construction and remediation equipment augmented to further minimize emissions;
  • Use of alternative fuels and renewable sources of energy; and
  • Maximizing recycling, onsite reuse of materials and reductions in liquid and soil wastes generated during remediation.

Through these efforts, PG&E reduced cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 43,000 metric tons, reduced liquid wastes by an estimated 4.5 million gallons and added more than $10.8 million to the local economies near our remediation projects.

Community Involvement in Power Plant Cleanup

PG&E completed an environmental cleanup project at the former Oakland Power Plant. As we have done with other remediation projects, PG&E worked with a non-profit organization, CiviCorps, to employ local residents in the effort.

Looking Ahead

PG&E has taken responsibility for historic environmental impacts and continues to work with regulators, local residents and others as we make progress on our cleanup plans. We are committed to maintaining transparency and proactively engaging with our stakeholders throughout the life cycle of each project.

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