PG&E to appeal proposed $1.4-billion penalty for fatal pipeline blast

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is appealing a proposed record penalty for the fatal gas pipeline explosion and fire that destroyed a Bay Area residential neighborhood.

The San Francisco-based utility, the state's largest, announced the appeal in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. The filing came shortly after the California Public Utilities Commission released the proposed decisions by two administrative law judges seeking a $1.4-billion fine from PG&E shareholders.

The Sept. 9, 2012, blast and fire, caused by faulty welds in a 54-year-old underground gas-transmission line, killed eight people, injured 66 and destroyed 38 houses in the bedroom community of San Bruno near San Francisco International Airport.

PG&E said in the SEC filing that it "plans to appeal the decisions to the CPUC within 30 days." It said it expected other parties in the regulatory case to also file comments with the agency.

The PUC administrative law judges could revise their proposed decisions. The final recommendation would then go to the five-member commission for consideration.

On Tuesday, San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane said PG&E should "do the right thing and respect the penalty without appeal."

Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for the Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group, said an appeal was expected.

"It's no surprise that PG&E in both this case and several others keeps trying to stick the customers with the cost of its own mistakes," she said.

Twitter: @MarcLifsher

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