PG&E; expects criminal charges in deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion


Utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said Thursday it expects federal officials to bring criminal charges against the company in connection with a deadly 2010 gas-pipeline blast in San Bruno, Calif.

In a statement, PG&E; said it is negotiating with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The San Francisco-based company “now expects that the U.S. Attorney will charge that PG&E;’s past operating practices violated the federal Pipeline Safety Act in areas such as record keeping, pipeline integrity management and identification of pipeline threats,” it said in a statement.


The company added: “PG&E; believes that criminal charges are not merited and that PG&E; employees did not intentionally violate the federal Pipeline Safety Act.”

Last year, PG&E; announced it would pay out $565 million in legal settlements and other claims stemming from the 2010 natural gas explosion that killed eight people and devastated a neighborhood.

The blast in September 2010 also injured dozens and destroyed 38 homes when a 54-year-old pipeline exploded underneath the San Francisco suburb.

The $565 million includes $455 million that the utility had already pledged and $110 million in recent settlements and claims.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that maintenance work at a pipeline control center triggered electrical problems and a rise in gas pressure prior to the blast.

The agency issued a scathing report blaming PG&E; for “baffling” mistakes, a “litany of failures,” and lax oversight, saying it took the gas company nearly 95 minutes to shut off the gas spewing from the broken pipeline.

The report by the commission’s Safety and Enforcement Division said its investigators found more than 100 violations by the company, some dating back decades.

[Updated 3:04 p.m. March 27: In a press release, PG&E; said it is “committed” to spend $2.7 billion of shareholder money for safety-related projects. It also said it has completed nine of 12 safety reccomendations made by the NTSB.]


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