The utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) held multiple accredited safety certifications even as it was allowing a culture of unsafe data falsification to fester. Investigators have discovered that PG&E “locators” falsified data related to the location of underground gas lines for years, allegedly due to short staffing. In separate investigations, PG&E electricity transmission equipment has been deemed the “likely source” of the massive wildfires that devastated the state of California, including the deadly Camp Fire in November that destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 86 people. These incidents all occurred while PG&E held multiple safety and environmental related certifications issued by the certification bodies Lloyds Register (LR) and DNV-GL.
In May of 2014, when the data falsification of gas lines was underway, LR issued certificates to PG&E for ISO 55001 and an industry standard called PAS55-1. According to an official press release, the LR safety audit was comprehensive:
Lloyd’s Register travelled throughout PG&E’s 70,000-square-mile service area reviewing safety practices, information and risk management policies, employee qualifications, emergency response protocols and more than 20 additional critical areas of asset management. The certification process also involved a series of rigorous, independent audits and interviews of more than 150 PG&E management, field employees and contractors.
ISO 55001 is a relatively new standard for asset management, and includes safety requirements relative to the use of assets. The company was then re-certified to ISO 55001 by LR later in November of that year. Oxebridge has confirmed that the company held ISO 55001 certification even after its data falsification scandal was revealed in the press.
LR also previously certified PG&E to the American Petroleum Institute’s standard API RP1173 for a “Pipeline Safety Management System.”
The relationship with Lloyds goes back to at least 2002, according to an official Environmental Report which claims Lloyds granted PG&E an ISO 14001 environmental management system certification at that time. The report incorrectly refers to LR as “Lloyds of London.”
While press releases touting the certifications remain on the PG&E website, the LR website has since been scrubbed of all references related to PG&E, according to Google search results. In at least one of these, LR previously boasted that PG&E exhibited “best in class operational standards [for] its gas operations.” One of these results shows the now-deleted reference to PG&E’s API RP 1173 certification.
Lloyds Register and other accredited certification bodies were instrumental in having the rules which govern their activities amended, removing a prior requirement that such registrars maintain a public registry of current and withdrawn certificates, making it easier to “wipe” the history of such certifications immediately after a scandal hits. Lloyds Register representative Steve Williams represented the company to the ISO CASCO committee, which rewrote the registrar rules published as ISO 17021, removing the “public registry” requirement.
PG&E also held ISO 9001 certification from LR, but this was narrowly scoped only to its management of subcontractors; it has not yet been definitively proven that the locators involved in the scandal were subcontractors.
In 2016 a second certification body, DNV-GL, issued PG&E a separate safety-related certification for “Responsible Care” under RC14001, developed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC). PG&E was the first natural gas utility to achieve this certification, prompting the CEO of the ACC — former Democratic Rep. Cal Dooley — to praise PG&E:
Achieving RC14001 certification demonstrates that a company’s environmental, health, safety and security operations are a real, day-to-day functioning part of their business,” said ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley. “As the first utility to meet the requirements of this management system standard, PG&E is a model for other utilities that seek to demonstrate their commitment to and investment in a culture of safety.”
Accreditation rules prohibit a certification body such as DNV-GL from issuing certifications to companies with whom its business relationships raise risks to objectivity and impartiality. The rule is generally unenforced, however, by the Accreditation Bodies who oversee registrars such as DNV-GL. Nevertheless, the relationship between DNV-GL and PG&E does appear to have violated these rules.
DNV-GL co-developed the East Bay Energy Watch (EBEW) program alongside PG&E, introducing a business relationship between the two companies. A separate program, called the Business Energy Services Team Project (BSET), listed DNV-GL and PG&E as “partners” alongside EBEW. In 2017, at least one DNV-GL training event included PG&E participation.
The RC14001 certificate issued by DNV-GL was accredited by US accreditation body ANAB, from Milwaukee WI. The ISO 55001 certificate issued by LR was accredited by the British accreditation body UKAS. Both ANAB and UKAS are members of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) which is tasked with overseeing the entire certification scheme.
ANAB, UKAS and the IAF have consistently refused to investigate claims of conflicts of interest within the certification bodies, and have ignored calls for reform of the certification scheme to improve objectivity and impartiality.
PG&E has filed bankruptcy and faces billions of dollars in liabilities for its role in the California fires.
Dooley, Williams and ACC did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this article.