Companies such as Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which owns the line that caused the Cupertino blast, don't have to routinely report what they know about failure rates of particular brands of plastic pipes, even to the federal and state agencies that regulate pipeline operators. The federal government, bowing to industry resistance, has never required it.
Officials with the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees PG&E, say the utility does account for plastic pipe leaks in quarterly reports, but does not indicate the maker of the pipes involved. PG&E provides that and other key information about plastic pipe failures on a voluntary, anonymous basis to an industry-maintained confidential database.
Timothy Alan Simon, one of the five PUC members appointed by the governor, said that should change.
"These are gas lines coming to your home," Simon said. "Every resident should have a certain level of assurance that we are not hiding information that they need to know to determine safety."
... Richard Kuprewicz, a consultant from Redmond, Wash., who advises federal regulators on pipeline safety, said keeping data hidden blinds regulators.
The current system, he said, creates "the illusion of safety, in that it gives people the impression that someone is keeping real data that means something. It may or may not - most likely not."