Judge Orders PG&E to Face Most Charges in Deadly California Pipeline Blast

By | December 30, 2015

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. must face the most serious charges related to a 2010 explosion that killed eight people in a San Francisco suburb as the utility heads to a jury trial next year over claims it ignored the dangers of older gas pipelines.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco recently rejected the power company’s request to throw out charges that its alleged violation of minimum federal pipeline safety standards was “knowing and willful,” as well as seven counts related to its record keeping practices. The judge previously refused to dismiss a charge that PG&E obstructed a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the blast.

In the order, the judge tossed 12 counts of violating integrity regulations that he said are “multiplicitous.” He said he’ll let the government restore one of the claims.

Henderson this month cut in half the maximum penalty prosecutors will be allowed to seek, from $1.13 billion to about $565 million, if they win a conviction. State regulators already imposed $1.6 billion in civil sanctions related to the pipeline explosion.

figs-pipelineThe high-pressure gas line running under San Bruno, California, was originally installed from 1944 to 1948 in hundreds of segments. By 1979, Congress imposed criminal penalties for knowing and willful violation of the Pipeline Safety Act.

The 2010 blast damaged or destroyed 108 homes.

The case is U.S. v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 14- cr-00175, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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