The Flywheel

Next meeting: December 16th

Hoilday Toy Drive

Come help us make the 2nd Annual Richmond Rotary Holiday Toy Drive a success by bringing one wrapped toy to donate.

Enos Johnson will again coordinate with Richmond and El Cerrito Fire and Police Departments to bring some surprises into the lives of area children. Details in Announcements, below.


Meeting of Friday, December 9th

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Prez EJ was busy so PP Alan Bear rang the bell. Jan Brown lead the club in the Pledge and George Egan offered a moment of silence for freedom, justice and World Peace. Henry Kelman’s thought for the day was that Obama is going to get reelected because nobody is going to vote for Newt including regular Republican voters like him.

Rotarians with Guests

Darlene Martin Alameda was introduced as Josh Surowitz’ guest when Josh was out of the room.

Sunshine Report

Herb Cole said Jon Nicol is doing rather well.


  • Using the Past President and President Elect as elfin and reindeerish props Assist. District Governor Pam Jones remained the club that this coming meeting (Dec. 16th) Santa Claus is Coming to Town or at least Rotary, and, to be Nice you have to bring a new toy of the quality you would give to your kids or grandkids. Santa will be assisted by the Richmond & El Cerrito Police and Firefighters who will distribute the collected toys with the additional help of the YMCA. So in review:
      • Bring yourself and guests especially little ones who would be interested in visiting Santa or a fire truck.
     • Bring an unwrapped nice gift.
     • Bring your Holiday Cheer and be ready to have a good time.
  • PP George Egan, assisting an absent Foundation Chair Joan Davis reminded the club that it is almost the end of the year and a Rotary Foundation contribution mad now can be recognized on your 2011 tax return.
  • The elusive Erle Brown announced that the Crab Feed will be held Saturday January 28th at Salesian HS cafeteria as in the past. The cost is expected to be $40/person and. “I’m looking for volunteers” to help stage the event.
  • For those who may have missed it, the Beav, Don and Alan again tanked everyone for a very successful holiday Auction with net receipts of $18,500+, the biggest member and guest turnout in years and lots of jovial and productive helpers.  Thanks again Don Lau and Jim Beaver, Ace Auctioneers!
  • HALT THE PRESSES! – Treasurer DAB has just updated the final Holiday Auction results with a total funds collected of $19,650! This was posted from David’s i-phone and since he is a man of few clicks, an explanation of the increase will have to wait.

Special Events

Read more about the Crab Feed here as things develop.


Dandy Don Lau asked Tom Butt if it was true that he and Shirley celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Tom said, “Yes, and we had a great time at Pt. Reyes”, and also made a $100 contribution to the club.
Don then acknowledged Henry Moe who is having a birthday Sunday (12/11) and said he would get back to him next week.

Happy and Sad Dollars

Don asked who had Happy or Sad $$$?
Josh Surowitz had Happy $$ for the successful Rotary Happy Hour at the Hotel Mac last month and will be more happy if everyone shows up with a friend or a Rotary prospect at the next Rotary Happy Hour Wed. 12/14 at the Mac, 4:30 to 6:00 PM.
Jon Lawlis had Happy $$ for the great attendance at the Holiday Auction.
Henry Moe has Happy $$ because Salesian’s ’big’ (300 #) lineman Freddie Tagaloa made the right decision and is going to Cal.
Hank Covell had Happy $$ for his son’s 50th birthday.
Jan Brown had Happy & Sad $$ not necessarily in that order, because her Mom had a bad fall, but she had no broken bones. Jan said Don and Betty are now using matching walkers. Jan was also Happy about the Auction and our great auctioneers.

Norm's Nonsense

I remember a Christmas years ago when my son was a kid. I bought him a tank. It was about a hundred dollars, a lot of money in those days. It was the kind of tank you could actually get inside and ride.
Instead, he played in the box it came in.
It taught me a valuable lesson. Next year he got a box, and I got a hundred dollars worth of Scotch.


Jim Young introduced today’s guests from Pacific Gas & Electric, Roxanne Cruz, Governmental Relations and today’s speaker John Corona, Superintendent of Gas Line Operations, Construction & Maintenance. Jim noted that PG&E seeks opportunities to speak with community organizations about gas transmission line safety. Given the San Bruno explosion and fire, it is a proactive move that shows some corporate moxie.

John said that meeting with public groups and especially local firefighters has been his life. His focus is on natural gas (methane) safety and high-pressure line locations. He has met often with the 4 million customers in his service area, inviting them to look at the high-pressure gas line map he brings or, when they prefer, posts on-line.

PG&E gas originates in New Mexico and Canada and enters California through northern and southern very high-pressure lines, operating at 800 psi. By the time the gas reaches the three main Bay Region transmission lines the pressure has been stepped down to 400 psi. When gas reaches home meters it is operating at 40 psi. The very high pressure used in transmission is necessary to supply the volume of gas needed by PG&E’s customers. Large customers like Chevron prefer that the pressure to their facilities were higher. Chevron, in particular, increases the pressure at the refinery to 600 PSI. In that sense, it ‘draws’ gas through the PG&E transmission lines. Josn said the lines in Richmond (pointing them out on his map) are called “105 A & B” and actually operate at 135 psi. The Richmond pipes average 24” in diameter.

Because his geographic supervision district includes San Francisco he was the PG&E Incident Coordinator for the San Bruno disaster. Until a few weeks ago he could not discuss it because of pending litigation. He is speaking now because PG&S has settled with the litigants, taking responsibility for the San Bruno incident.

John said there has always been something of a engineering debate about pipeline safety, with the two sides being: 1) with proper maintenance a well engineered pipeline can last forever; 2) everything eventually wears out and needs to be replaced even if well maintained and long-lived to begin with. John said he believes the debate is over and now PG&E is in the process of testing 380 miles of transmission lines to establish a system-wide replacement schedule. Historic practice was to hydraulically pressure test line sections every 7 years. The well publicized ‘document party’ at the Cow Palace was their effort to prove that they had done the pressure testing. While the search for documentation continues, PG&E has begun the pressure testing, which is expected to continue through 2013. The cost, apart from any future line replacement, is $1.5 million per mile.

Apart from the efforts resulting from the San Bruno disaster, John said his staff of 160 are committed to gas line maintenance and inspection. The inspections involve semi-annual line-walking with hydrogen detection meters that detect the hydrogen component of methane from otherwise undetected leaks at 100 parts per million. Arial and driving surveys are also conducted to locate new construction or road work. John's biggest fear is a line rupture caused by authorized or unauthorized underground work that did not properly locate the existing gas lines.

Another gas line problem for John is the electrolysis caused by the BART system when it grounds its direct current power system. PG&E operates neutralizing currents around BART grounding sites to counteract this electrolysis.

Still another problem is the tension between PG&E and cities that want safe pipelines but don’t want their public streets and other assets dug up for testing and replacement. The issue is compounded by "post" gas line development (as in San Bruno): gas lines installed before the construction of housing and other improvements, without much thought to the location of existing gas lines.

Concluding his talk, John said that as gas lines are replaced PG&E will incorporate the latest in engineering technology including flexible plastic lines, automatic shutoff valves, and line monitoring equipment. During Q&A there were questions about "smart meters", but all agreed that this is a topic for a another visit by PG&E representatives.

Thank you John Corona and Roxanne Cruz for a very timely and informative program.

-Rotating Editor, Jim Young