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All About PG&E: The Facts You Need To Know

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is a publicly traded American investment company (IOU) based in the Pacific Gas & Electric Building in San Francisco, California, USA. PG&E delivers natural gas and electricity to most of California’s northern two-thirds, including Bakersfield and the northern side of Santa Barbara County, close to Oregon State Line and Nevada and Arizona State Line, comprising 5.2 million households. The California Public Utilities Commission supervises PG&E. It is the leading affiliate of the PG&E Company holding company, which as of January 16, 2019 has a market capitalization of $3.242 billion. It was founded by George H. Roe after the Gold Rush in California and was “the largest electric utility company in the United States” by 1984. PG&E is one of California’s four operated, investor-owned utilities (IOUs); the other three are Pacific Power, Southern California Edison, and Sempra Energy, San Diego Gas & Electric.

 On January 14, 2019, PG&E announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in response to the financial challenges associated with the catastrophic wildfires that occurred in Northern California in 2017 and 2018.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

The San Francisco Gas and Electric Company and the California Gas and Electric Corporation combined into the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) on October 10, 1905, according to PG&E’s 2012 history timeline on their website. The acquisition provided access to the large San Francisco market and a basis for further investment for the California Gas and Electric Company. In addition, the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company was able to improve its electrical system, which had until then been operated solely by steam generating plants, and was unable to cope with lower hydroelectric power rates. After the merger was formally completed, engineers and management from both organizations formulated plans for coordinating and unifying the two gas and electric systems. However, the two firms maintained separate corporate identities until 1911.

PG&E started delivering natural gas to San Francisco and northern California in 1930 through the world’s longest pipeline, linking Texas gas fields to northern California with compressor stations that included cooling towers every 300 miles (480 km), on the state line in Topock, Arizona, and near Hinkley California. With the introduction of natural gas, the company began retiring its polluting gas manufacturing facilities, though it kept some plants on standby. Today there is a network of eight compressor stations linked by “40,000 miles of distribution pipelines and over 6,000 miles of transportation pipelines” serving “4.2 million customers from Bakersfield to the Oregon border”.

In the 1950s and 1960s, hexavalent chromium in the form of an additive was used in rust prevention at both Topock and Hinkley compressor stations in “the cooling towers that prepared the gas for transportation through PG&E’s pipeline to northern and central California,” the cause of groundwater contamination in Hinkley. They then disposed of these cooling waters “adjacent to the compressor stations.”

Charles M. Coleman, who worked for the advertising department of PG&E in 1952, published his book P. G. And that’s E. From California: Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Centennial Story, 1852–1952.


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