PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2018

Northern California Wildfires

Historic Impacts

PG&E’s environmental remediation program addresses contamination resulting from the historic operations of Pacific Gas and Electric Company and its predecessor companies dating as far back as the mid- to late-1800s. Our overarching goal is to clean up historic impacts by using leading-edge technical approaches and best practices for engaging local stakeholders and suppliers.

Our Approach

PG&E remains committed to safely incorporating sustainable remediation practices and technologies into site cleanups. Since 2010, we have partnered with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to implement our guidance for sustainable remediation.

Involving the community early and often is a vital component of our remediation efforts. Locally, we communicate with city leaders, local businesses, community groups and residents to promote awareness, solicit feedback and identify core issues of interest in our remediation projects. We partner on initiatives to address these issues, including hiring local unemployed residents, developing property disposition strategies that align with remediation efforts and sourcing local goods and services.

We also share best practices and benchmark our efforts against other energy companies and industries, such as the Manufactured Gas Plant Consortium, a peer group of remediation experts from gas providers across the nation.

2017 Milestones

Natural Gas Compressor Stations

PG&E’s natural gas system includes eight compressor stations that receive and move natural gas throughout our service area. During the 1950s and 1960s, long before recognition of the environmental standards to which we adhere today, PG&E used hexavalent chromium to prevent rust in cooling towers at the Topock and Hinkley compressor stations—a common industry practice at the time. These operations resulted in groundwater contamination, and PG&E continues to work diligently under the oversight of state and federal agencies and in coordination with local Native American tribal governments to address these legacy impacts.

At the Topock Compressor Station, we conducted soil investigation work in and around the compressor station property after years of planning and review with regulators and tribes. The data collected is being used in a risk assessment which will help determine what soil cleanup work may be needed in the future.

We also submitted final plans for a long-term groundwater cleanup plan at the Topock site in 2015. DTSC conducted a Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (FSEIR) in 2017, which is anticipated to be certified in 2018. The final remedy is expected to be approved by DTSC and the U.S. Department of the Interior thereafter.

While the long-term groundwater remedy is being finalized, we continued operations of interim groundwater measures, which operate around the clock to ensure that the Colorado River is protected from impacts. Built in 2005, the system has successfully controlled groundwater contamination, treating more than 800 million gallons of groundwater and removing more than 8,000 pounds of chromium.

In addition, PG&E continues to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits through its environmental remediation work. This includes $192 million spent on improving the environment through soil and groundwater cleanups, field testing cutting-edge cleanup technologies to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing over $12 million to the local economies near our project sites. We remain committed to developing innovative and sustainable cleanup solutions that address our historical impacts in accordance with today’s regulatory standards while working towards a more sustainable future.

PG&E also remains committed to protecting public health and safety while remediating the environment and responding to community concerns at the Hinkley Compressor Station. Through 2017, we estimate that approximately 50 percent of the chromium present in the groundwater has been remediated.

We also continue to work with community stakeholders to improve our local presence in the Hinkley community and support community investment priorities focusing on youth, health and wellness, education and workforce development.

Manufactured Gas Plant Sites

We continue to make progress as we voluntarily address 41 Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) sites previously owned or operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company or its predecessor companies. MGPs were located across the country and used coal and oil to produce gas for lighting, heating and cooking in the late 1800s and early 1900s, until natural gas arrived in the 1930s. In 2017, cleanup was completed at sites in Eureka, San Luis Obispo, Red Bluff and Fresno, and we are working on documenting our cleanup activities and developing any necessary site maintenance plans.

  • Sustainable remediation in Eureka. At an MGP site in Eureka, we used an innovative remediation technology referred to as in situ stabilization (ISS) to meet environmental protection standards for the community and Humboldt Bay ecosystem. We used this approach to treat soil impacted by historic MGP operations, eliminating the traditional need for off-site trucking and disposal of the soil in landfills.
    Using ISS avoided the disposal of 20,910 tons of soil, 505,325 trucking miles, $3 million in disposal costs and more than 670 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Eliminating trucking and off-site disposal also lowered project risks related to trucking over long distances.
  • Prepared properties for future uses. Cleanup work in San Luis Obispo, Red Bluff and Fresno positioned properties for productive reuse. In San Luis Obispo and Red Bluff, we are partnering with city and community leaders to prepare property redevelopment strategies, while in Fresno, we are upgrading our service yard.
  • Hired local workers. As part of the Eureka and Red Bluff projects, PG&E hired four local unemployed individuals to work as traffic control flaggers, including two former veterans. Since 2012, PG&E has adopted a local-hiring strategy that has benefitted unemployed and homeless residents, often leading to future full-time jobs.

Additional Environmental Remediation Projects

Our commitment to environmental responsibility, sustainable remediation practices and community partnerships was evident at other remediation projects in 2017:

  • Opened Hunters Point Power Plant shoreline. PG&E completed a final critical phase of work at the former Hunters Point Power Plant: the cleanup and restoration of a shoreline area that stretches from Heron’s Head to India Basin Park. The project provides public access, educational outreach related to natural and cultural history, and recreational facilities along a new pedestrian pathway adjacent to San Francisco Bay. Cleanup activities resulted in reduced risks to the community and ecological receptors in San Francisco Bay.
    During construction, PG&E implemented a robust safety and compliance program, including stringent dust management practices that ensured the safety of employees, contractors, the public and ecological receptors. We worked with the City of San Francisco’s CityBuild program so that 36 percent of our laborer/operator workforce was hired locally, resulting in over 17,000 hours of local hire effort, work skills improvement and economic benefits.
    We modified the shoreline plans to accommodate additional fill material, resulting in reduced off-site disposal by approximately 6,000 tons, avoiding approximately 160 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The design included sustainable elements such as natural bioswales for stormwater filtering to protect the Bay and native plant species for erosion control and aesthetic improvements.
  • Applied innovative sustainable remediation at the Shell Pond and Newark substation sites. PG&E is pioneering the use of phytoremediation to clean up waste residues in soil at various sites. The Shell Pond site is a former 73-acre wastewater pond impacted by legacy operations prior to PG&E’s ownership, and the Newark site is an active substation.
    In 2017, pilot studies at both sites demonstrated the effectiveness of phytoremediation to clean historic wastes on-site, which eliminates the need for traditional approaches involving off-site trucking and disposal in landfills. The studies used native plant species to naturally degrade wastes to inert substances in the soil. This approach will improve community safety and reduce future construction impacts, eliminating disposal of 350,000 tons of soil, 211,750 truck miles, $33 million in disposal costs and 284 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. We are exploring opportunities to apply phytoremediation at other sites.
  • Continued underground storage tank cleanup. PG&E historically operated over 1,400 underground storage tanks at approximately 400 locations in California. Over the last 50 years, a variety of factors has resulted in the physical closure (removal or abandonment in place) of the majority of the tanks. Of these locations, only a small number required remediation, and the closure of the final location and portfolio is expected in 2018.

Measuring Progress

Sustainable Remediation

In 2017, we reduced cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 700 metric tons and reduced liquid wastes by an estimated 4.1 million gallons. We achieved these results by incorporating the sustainable practices on nearly 100 remediation sites:

  • Using heavy construction and remediation equipment meeting Tier 3 and Tier 4 federal emission standards, reflecting the cleanest standards in the industry
  • Augmenting construction and remediation equipment to further minimize emissions
  • Using alternative fuels and renewable sources of energy for equipment and vehicles
  • Maximizing recycling, on-site reuse of materials and reductions in liquid and soil wastes generated during remediation

We also aim to source our equipment and vendors from the local community. In 2017, we added more than $11.9 million to the local economies near our project sites.

Looking Ahead

We will continue to work closely with regulators, civic leaders and community members as we proactively take responsibility for our past and work towards a more sustainable future. In 2018, we expect to complete remediation of a parking lot in Oroville and a PG&E facility in Emeryville. We also continue to explore innovative remediation strategies for future cleanup work, such as using heat to treat contaminants underground at a site in Fresno and soil stabilization methods in Merced and Vallejo, which will keep impacts in place while limiting material being placed in landfills.

We will also continue partnering with the community on future property redevelopment opportunities, such as in Lodi where a local food truck commissary recently purchased a former MGP site so it can expand its operations.