PG&E’s environmental commitment extends to our environmental remediation program, which addresses contamination resulting from the historic operations of PG&E and its predecessor companies dating as far back as the mid- to late-1800s. PG&E’s overarching goal is to clean up historic impacts by using leading-edge technical approaches and best practices for engaging local stakeholders and suppliers.
PG&E’s commitment to environmental stewardship, safety and customer service is reflected in our work. Our sustainable remediation practices and technologies focus on minimizing impacts to the environment and community to the greatest extent possible. We have implemented our guidance for sustainable remediation, prepared and piloted with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
Stakeholder engagement is an important component of these efforts. We regularly communicate with local businesses, community leaders and residents to promote awareness, solicit feedback and develop strategies to minimize disruptions during the cleanup process. In addition, we partner on initiatives that serve the community, including local hiring and sourcing of goods and services to support the local economy.
We also share best practices and benchmark our efforts against other utilities and industries, including through the MGP Consortium, a peer group of environmental remediation experts from gas utility companies across the nation.
PG&E’s Natural Gas Compressor Stations
PG&E’s natural gas system includes eight compressor stations, which receive and move natural gas throughout our gas infrastructure. During the 1950s and 1960s, long before 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 working diligently under the oversight of state and federal agencies and in coordination with local Native American tribal governments to address these legacy impacts.
Ongoing community engagement
As part of our stakeholder engagement efforts for the Topock project, PG&E staff was on hand at the second annual Earth Day event with the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe. The event brought people together for a day of learning and community building.
At the Topock Compressor Station, we conducted soil investigation work on and around the compressor station property after years of planning and review with regulators and tribes. The information gathered will be used to determine what soil cleanup work may be needed.
We also submitted final plans for a long-term groundwater cleanup plan at the Topock site. The final remedy is expected to be approved by DTSC and the U.S. Department of the Interior in early 2017. 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 660 million gallons of groundwater and removing more than 8,000 pounds of chromium.
Increased agricultural opportunities in Hinkley
We have expanded agricultural treatment options to treat hexavalent chromium impacts, working with local farmers. In 2015, PG&E added 66 acres to the Hinkley agricultural treatment program.
PG&E also remains committed to protecting public health and safety while remediating the groundwater at the Hinkley Compressor Station. Through 2015, we estimate that at least 50 percent of chromium groundwater impacts have been removed. A comparative analysis of treatment to date shows that more mass has been removed than remains to be treated. Ongoing testing of the groundwater confirms that the water quality in domestic wells tested within the program boundaries meets the drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium approved by the California Department of Public Health in 2014.
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
As part of PG&E’s active remediation project in San Rafael, workers conduct cleanup activities within a fully-enclosed tent to control dust and odor.
In the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, before natural gas was available as an energy source, thousands of Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) sites were located 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 were closed and the properties put to other uses. We continue to make progress with remediation at 41 MGPs owned or operated by PG&E or its predecessor companies. The following example reflects how the work is being done in a manner that respects the local community:
- Partnered with local community in San Rafael. For our cleanup of an MGP site in San Rafael, PG&E worked with local nonprofit Downtown Streets Team to hire and train two homeless community members, helping them get back on their feet and regain housing. Now that the project is in active remediation, PG&E contracts with small businesses and spends locally whenever possible. These efforts will continue through early 2017, when remediation is expected to be complete.
Additional Environmental Remediation Projects
Neighborhood resident points to possible future uses of the 31-acre property, formerly home of the Hunters Point Power Plant.
Demonstrating PG&E’s commitment to the community
As PG&E continues cleanup efforts at the Shell Pond site, we maintain our partnerships with local schools and nonprofit organizations. PG&E sponsors an annual educational event where local middle and high school students learn how wetlands help improve water quality naturally.
PG&E’s commitment to community partnerships and sustainable principles, practices and technologies was evident at other remediation projects in 2015, including:
- Neared completion of the cleanup at Hunters Point Power Plant. The cleanup of the former Hunters Point Power Plant (which includes both soil and groundwater) is 95 percent complete. PG&E is working with the City of San Francisco and other key stakeholders on a plan to return the property to productive reuse. NOW Hunters Point, a project supported by PG&E, hosted a second year of educational and interactive activities in a restored area of the property to test future site uses and serve the community.
- Leveraged nature to clean up Shell Pond. Now owned by PG&E, this site in Bay Point is home to a 73-acre former wastewater treatment pond built and operated by Shell Oil. In June 2015, PG&E completed the removal and off-site disposal of 5,000 tons of waste. The waste stockpile area was then graded and planted with native grasses to match the surrounding landscape. Through partnerships with local workforce development agencies, PG&E hired three people who live locally to work on the project and also hired a local subcontractor to conduct portions of the work.
In 2015, we tracked the benefits of sustainable practices gathered from more than 85 remediation sites, which included:
- Using heavy construction and remediation equipment meeting Tier 3 and Tier 4 federal emission standards, reflecting the highest standards in the industry
- Using construction and remediation equipment augmented 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
Through these efforts, PG&E reduced cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by more than 8,500 metric tons, reduced liquid wastes by an estimated 5.5 million gallons and added more than $8.5 million to the local economies near our project sites. The latter was achieved through a concentrated effort on identifying qualified local vendors.
PG&E has taken responsibility for historic environmental impacts and continues to work closely with regulators, local residents and others as we make progress on our cleanup plans. For example, following the successful implementation of a tent enclosure at the San Rafael MGP site to minimize impacts to the community, PG&E is evaluating the use of a similar approach at another site. PG&E is also implementing contractor safety oversight standards for its suppliers.