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The high price of a Valley PG&E gas leak

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The state licensing board says the company responsible for Friday's gas leak in northeast Fresno could face stiff penalties for failing to register the project, and could potentially lose its contractor license for knowingly digging without permission.

Repair costs and loss in revenue for businesses continues to grow.

$300,000 and growing. That's what PG&E estimates its costs to be for just repairing the pipeline. The leaked gas, well that's an additional charge. The company may be subject to third party claims for damages from unauthorized digging.

Traffic is flowing smoothly again on one of Fresno's busiest thoroughfares but workers at some of the businesses on Shaw Avenue forced to evacuate Friday morning are still feeling the impacts from a major gas leak and loss of power.

Deborah Wilson, of California Correctional Healthcare Services said, "When we came in this morning we had no electricity so we called PG&E to turn it back on for us."

Deborah Wilson's office overlooks the area where PG&E says a contractor with Atazz Technical Services was digging without proper permission. It turns out the worker was supposed call 811 to alert the northern California notification center two days prior to digging to obtain an underground service alert ticket number.

A ticket spokesperson Jeff Smith says is necessary or the excavation permit is not valid.

Smith said, "Calling 811 is very important, particularly in doing work like this. You want to make sure all your permits are in order. In this case, that just didn't happen."

That means the digging was not authorized and according to the contractor state license board, "Any operator who knowingly and willfully violates the government code is subject to a 50-thousand dollar fine..."

Atazz could also be held responsible for any repair costs and could potentially lose its contractor license. Businesses are already tallying up the bill.

"several hundred thousand dollars just on our end and we expect there will be additional claims filed against the perpetrator," one businessman said.

Kang Singh of Valero Bulldog Gas & Mart said, "If there is a possibility to hold this company accountable and file a claim for your loss, would you do that? Definitely, it's a big loss on the weekend too. We'll definitely do that."

Some of the businesses we talked with were without power for more than five hours.

The owner of the gas station says he lost two-thirds of his business on Friday and Saturday and estimates the loss to be in the thousands of dollars.

The State Licensing Board says Atazz has been licensed since 2006 and has no prior problems.

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Tags:
fresno, fresno county, pg&e, local, linda mumma
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