PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2021

COVID-19 Response

Historical Impacts

Through our environmental remediation program, PG&E works to address contamination resulting from the utility’s and its predecessor companies’ historical operations dating as far back as the mid- to late-1800s. Our overarching goal is to address historical impacts using leading-edge technical approaches and best practices for engaging local stakeholders and suppliers, thereby positioning these properties for productive use.

Our Approach

PG&E remains committed to being a good corporate neighbor, which includes conducting our remediation projects in a safe and sustainable manner. Since 2010, we have partnered with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to implement our sustainable remediation approaches, which include field testing and incorporating cutting-edge cleanup technologies to lower greenhouse gas emissions and minimize community impacts. These activities, in turn, deliver economic and social benefits to the communities we serve.

Involving the community early is another 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 workforce training and local school science, technology, education and math (STEM) initiatives; developing property disposition strategies that align with remediation efforts; and sourcing local goods and services.

2020 Milestones

Much of our work was impacted in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, but we kept our field activities operational, and ultimately executed over $170 million in remediation activities in California. Our efforts in early 2020 focused on protecting the health and safety of our team, while continuing forward progress on our sites. We were able to continue with analysis, design and permitting activities for our projects, and participate in numerous public hearings and work sessions remotely.

We also worked closely with our regulators to support public participation efforts in a virtual setting including holding virtual public meetings and conducting targeted phone, email and mail surveys. In the field, we implemented methods that allowed us to continue working with appropriate social distancing, personal protective equipment and other safety precautions.

Manufactured Gas Plant Sites

Our progress continues as we voluntarily address over 40 Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) sites previously owned or operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company or its predecessor companies. To date, 30 of these sites have been successfully remediated. MGPs were located throughout PG&E’s service area and across the country and used coal and oil to produce gas for lighting, heating and cooking in the mid- to late-1800s and early 1900s, until natural gas arrived in Northern California in the 1930s.

In 2020, we completed a challenging remediation project at the former Salinas MGP site, and remediated our Fresno-2 site. We also completed the first phase of remediation in support of substation equipment replacement efforts at the former Colusa MGP and current substation and service center. Other sites continued to work through the investigation, remediation and closeout process under the direction of California regulators.

Natural Gas Compressor Stations

PG&E’s natural gas system includes nine 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 are in the process of implementing a DTSC and U.S. Department of the Interior-approved groundwater remedy to address impacts and ensure the long-term protection of the community and the Colorado River. The remedy will use an in-situ treatment approach, which will use natural bacteria to treat the chromium in the ground. Construction of the first phase of remedy facilities will be complete in 2021 and the remedy is anticipated to begin operation thereafter.

While the long-term remedy is under construction, we continue operations of interim groundwater measures, which operate around the clock to help ensure that the Colorado River is protected from impacts. Built in 2005, the system has successfully controlled groundwater contamination and in 2020 treated over one billion gallons of groundwater and removed more than 9,880 pounds of chromium.

At the Hinkley Compressor Station, we estimate that about three-fourths of the chromium present in the groundwater was removed through 2020. We treat chromium in two ways at this site; first using in-situ treatment to immobilize the chromium underground, and also by pumping the water and using it for farming; the organic soils transform the chromium into an immobile form. We have partnered with local farmers to adjust irrigation pumping patterns in the area, in order to not only address our chromium issues in a sustainable way by growing crops, but also to help with area-wide legacy nitrate pollution from historical farming and ranching activities in the valley. Our chromium treatment has simultaneously removed over 300 tons of nitrate from the local aquifer.

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

Measuring Progress

Sustainable Remediation

Despite the pandemic, we were still able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 645 metric tons and liquid wastes by 21 million gallons in 2020. We achieved these results by incorporating sustainable practices on our remediation sites, including:

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

We also added $7 million to the local economies near our project sites by sourcing our equipment and vendors from the local community, an effort we make whenever possible on our remediation projects.