Our Historic Impacts

As part of PG&E’s environmental commitment, we have had a robust program of environmental remediation for more than 20 years with the goal of cleaning up contamination associated with historic PG&E operations and the operations of predecessor companies dating as far back as the mid- to late-1800s. In 2011, PG&E continued its efforts to fully remediate these sites by addressing more than 150 environmental remediation projects, including divested power plants, PG&E operating facilities, former manufactured gas plants and gas compressor stations.

PG&E’s Natural Gas Compressor Stations

PG&E’s natural gas system includes more than 40,000 miles of distribution pipelines and approximately 6,000 miles of transmission pipelines, working together to provide service to approximately 4.3 million customers from Bakersfield to the Oregon border. Essential to the system are eight gas compressor stations, which receive, store and move natural gas through PG&E’s pipelines. Under the direction of state and federal regulatory agencies and with input from numerous stakeholders, PG&E is working to investigate, clean up and restore the environment at both the Hinkley and Topock compressor station facilities.

Hinkley Compressor Station

PG&E’s Hinkley Compressor Station is located in San Bernardino County, southeast of the city of Barstow. Consistent with industry practice at the time, hexavalent chromium was used at Hinkley in the cooling towers in the 1950s and 1960s to prevent corrosion. From 1952 to 1964, cooling tower wastewater containing hexavalent chromium was discharged into unlined ponds, where it infiltrated into the underlying groundwater. PG&E is working cooperatively at the direction of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board—Lahontan Region (Water Board) to assess the extent of contamination and clean up the groundwater.

In its 2010 Feasibility Study submittals, PG&E recommended that the final remedy consist of two distinct approaches, each based on the geography of the area and extent of the hexavalent chromium plume. In the northern half of the plume, where chromium concentrations are within the California drinking water standard, and where outside hydraulic influences create the most potential for plume boundary expansion, PG&E proposes to use groundwater extraction and agricultural treatment. This technology is particularly well suited for this application, in that it allows extraction at rates and locations to optimize control and reduction of the plume boundaries while providing a sustainable and beneficial way of treating the extracted water by using it to grow crops such as alfalfa.

For the more concentrated southern half of the plume, PG&E proposes continuation and expansion of our existing full-scale in-situ (in place) treatment systems, where we inject food grade materials into the groundwater to create chemical conditions that remove hexavalent chromium from the groundwater, converting it to a naturally occurring form of the metal. During 2011, we began construction on a large-scale expansion of the main central area in-situ system, expanding our ability to create zones where chromium in groundwater is treated and removed.

In 2011, PG&E also greatly expanded its rate of groundwater extraction and agricultural treatment in the northern half of the plume, well above the rate that had existed in previous years. At the Hinkley site, PG&E uses “pivots” to deliver drip irrigation to our agricultural treatment areas. These pivots consist of segments of pipe mounted on wheels that move in a circular pattern from a central axis. In 2011, two new agricultural treatment areas fed by these pivots were brought online, and two others operated for the entire calendar year for the first time. To supply the water to these pivots, targeted extraction wells were constructed and brought online. This higher rate of pumping and targeted extraction, together with other ongoing measures such as injecting a barrier of fresh water outside the plume, is designed to improve the effectiveness of plume containment and remediation.

Stephanie Isaacson (right), Director of Stakeholder Engagement with the Utility, signs an agreement with Hinkley Community Advisory Committee Co-Chair Julie Clemmer and Vice-Chair Jon Quass to provide funding for independent third-party technical support to the community.

In May 2011, PG&E committed publicly to doing a better job working with and listening to the Hinkley community. Since then, the PG&E has been actively engaging the local community in new ways. For example, PG&E helped to form and has been actively working with a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) made up of volunteer residents and community leaders. Since the CAC’s first meeting in June of 2011, they have worked cooperatively with PG&E and the Lahontan Water Board to understand the community’s top priorities, which include a focus on the Hinkley School, clean water for indoor domestic use, independent expert assistance to help the community understand the complex technical details of the cleanup process, property values and community investment.

PG&E was pleased to enter into an agreement with the CAC to provide funding to form an Independent Review Panel (IRP) of qualified experts to assist the CAC and the community in understanding the complex technical issues involved in this project.

In addition, we continued our partnership with the Barstow Unified School District and provided funding for several important projects at the Hinkley School. We also partnered with the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County to provide holiday meals for community members. In collaboration with the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department and other community and business partners, PG&E is also working toward a workforce training and development initiative for Hinkley residents. The Utility maintains a local office in Hinkley to assist residents with their needs.

In 2012, PG&E is working towards implementing a voluntary program to provide whole house replacement water to eligible residents. The program consists of either a filtration system or a new, deeper well, both provided at PG&E’s expense. For property owners who do not prefer these options, PG&E may offer to purchase their property at fair market value.

Topock Compressor Station

PG&E’s Topock Compressor Station is located in San Bernardino County about a half mile from the Colorado River. Consistent with industry practice at the time, hexavalent chromium was used at Topock in the cooling towers in the 1950s and 1960s to prevent corrosion. From 1951 to 1964, cooling tower wastewater containing hexavalent chromium was discharged into a nearby dry wash, or ravine, where it infiltrated into the underlying groundwater aquifer. PG&E is working cooperatively with state and federal regulators and other interested parties to assess the extent of contamination and clean up the groundwater. Ongoing monitoring programs continue to show no presence of hexavalent chromium in the Colorado River, a source of drinking water.

In early 2004, in response to detections of chromium near the Colorado River, state regulators required PG&E to construct and operate a protective “interim measure” to hydraulically control the affected groundwater so it cannot move toward the Colorado River. Initially, this interim measure consisted of wells to extract groundwater near the Colorado River, which was transported off-site for disposal. In July 2005, PG&E expanded the interim measure to include a groundwater treatment plant, which cleans the extracted groundwater so it can be returned to the local groundwater aquifer. Over the past eight years, the interim measures have extracted almost 500 million gallons of contaminated groundwater and removed approximately 7,000 pounds of chromium from the environment.

The final remedy for groundwater cleanup was approved by state and federal regulators in January 2011. The approved remedy consists of in-situ treatment of the hexavalent chromium, a technique that has been proven at a number of other sites and that reduces consumptive water use, energy use and the project’s footprint on the desert landscape. Throughout 2011, PG&E worked with agencies and interested parties to develop a design and construction approach for the remedy that is consistent with best engineering practices, Environmental Impact Report (EIR) mitigation measures and applicable regulations.

PG&E also continued to work with agencies and interested parties to address soil contamination within and around the compressor station. In 2010, PG&E cleaned a ravine disposal site adjacent to the compressor station by removing almost 12,000 cubic yards of debris and contaminated soil. The removed material was transported off-site to a secure disposal facility. Further analysis of less studied portions of the soil and groundwater are being planned.

We also continue to work closely with the local Indian Tribes to ensure that they have the ability to meaningfully participate in the remedy-development process, consistent with PG&E’s environmental justice policy. We have entered into written agreements with four local tribes—the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Cocopah Indian Tribe and the Hualapai Tribe—that provide for reimbursement of certain costs incurred by the Tribes in connection with the Topock cleanup. In addition, through the Topock Leadership Partnership, PG&E meets periodically with leaders from state and federal agencies, Tribes and other stakeholders to discuss the project and seek input on its future direction. Finally, PG&E continues to work with the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe to settle claims relating to the nature and extent of mitigation required by the final EIR.

Manufactured Gas Plants

We continue to make significant progress addressing former PG&E or PG&E predecessor company-owned manufactured gas plant (MGP) sites. In the mid-1800s to the mid- 1900s, before natural gas was available as an energy source, thousands of MGPs were commonly 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 sites in PG&E’s service area were closed and the properties put to other uses.

Of the 41 MGP sites owned or operated by PG&E in the early- to mid-1900s, all but one are in some phase of the remediation process, investigation, remediation or post remediation, under the regulatory oversight of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). In 2011, we made some progress toward initiating the last MGP remediation site. We also made significant progress toward site closure at three sites located in Redding, Monterey and Madera in 2011.

The goal of the MGP program is to remediate all 41 MGP sites and receive regulatory closure on these sites as soon as possible. Review progress on each of the sites.

Hunters Point Power Plant

In 2011, PG&E completed the necessary below-ground demolition and remediated more than 80 percent of the former site of the Hunters Point Power Plant historically located in southeast San Francisco. PG&E is on track to clean most areas of the site to a residential cleanup standard, providing the most flexibility for future reuse of the property.

Keeping our promise to the San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point community, PG&E closed the aging facility in 2006 and completed its subsequent above-ground demolition in 2008. The cleanup began in 2010 and is continuing under close oversight of multiple regulatory agencies, including the DTSC and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

With the partnership of a community-based project advisory committee, we are working diligently to keep the local community updated on activities on site and continue to employ local labor, consistent with our environmental justice policy. The effort to hire companies and workers has resulted in $11 million in direct economic benefit to individuals and companies in the Bayview-Hunters Point community. It has also helped many local workers obtain training in new positions, leading to long-term employment in the construction industry.

The project is making use of locally owned rail transportation for soil disposal, allowing for both local economic development, fewer truck trips through the community and a reduced environmental footprint. The use of rail rather than truck transportation in 2011 alone avoided roughly 2,790 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions.

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 DTSC. By applying the guidance, we are working to identify, implement and track sustainable practices in a consistent manner throughout the lifecycle of ongoing PG&E remediation projects.

Examples of sustainable best management practices include the use of remediation equipment powered by cleaner and alternative fuels, reducing vehicle usage on projects and employing local workers to benefit local communities and businesses.

In 2011, PG&E applied sustainable practices at more than 60 active remediation project sites, in the process reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste, while maximizing the recycling of materials and benefitting local economies. For example, we implemented an innovative wind-aided remediation technique to reduce the energy used throughout the lifecycle of a project near Rio Vista, resulting in energy savings of up to 30,000 kWh through 2011. We also recycled nearly 75 percent of the demolition waste at a project at our San Luis Obispo substation. Additionally, our work at an MGP in Santa Rosa added approximately $2.5 million to the local economy.

Moving forward, we will continue to apply sustainable practices to additional PG&E remediation projects and work collaboratively with the DTSC and other state and local agencies on this emerging area.