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Thursday, September 4, 2014

$1.4 Billion in Penalties Is Sought in California Gas Blast

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Four years after a natural gas explosion tore through a neighborhood of San Bruno, Calif., killing eight people and injuring dozens of others, some of them seriously, the Pacific Gas & Electric Company has been hit with a proposed $1.4 billion penalty for suspected safety violations.
It is the largest safety penalty proposed to the California Public Utilities Commission.
In the decisions announced on Tuesday, a pair of administrative law judges said that the company committed 3,798 violations of state and federal laws, rules, standards or regulations in connection with its pipeline.
Under the proposal, still subject to the approval of the commission, the bulk of the proposed penalty, $950 million, will go into the state’s general fund, while $400 million will pay for pipeline improvements and about $50 million to enhance pipeline safety.
The deadly explosion in 2010 raised concerns about the care and maintenance of underground pipelines as the use of natural gas has boomed as a coal alternative.
The utility has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars settling claims by the victims and their families and contributing to the recovery efforts in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco, where the gas and electric company is based.
PG&E also faces charges by federal prosecutors in San Francisco, who earlier this year accused the company of “knowingly and willfully” violating the Pipeline Safety Act and of obstructing a federal investigation into the...
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