PG&E Pleads Not Guilty To Pipeline Charges, Next Court Date Is June 2

Federal law provides that if PG&E is convicted, the penalty would be either a fine totaling $6 million for the 12 charges or the amount of the loss created.

By Bay City News Service:

PG&E Co. pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Francisco Monday to 12 criminal charges stemming from the fatal explosion of a natural gas transmission pipeline in San Bruno in 2010. 

A lawyer for the utility entered the plea Monday morning before U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero. 

Later in the day, PG&E's legal team appeared briefly before U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, the trial judge assigned to the case, for a status conference. After prosecutors said they will start turning prosecution evidence over to the defense attorneys on Tuesday, Henderson scheduled another status conference for June 2.  No trial date has been set. 

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on April 1, alleges that PG&E "knowingly and willfully" violated requirements of the U.S. Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968 in regard to Line 132 in San Bruno and two other pipelines. 

The rupture of Line 132 in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010, resulted in an explosion and fire that killed eight people, injured 58 others, destroyed 38 houses and damaged 70 other buildings. 

The criminal violations alleged in the indictment include failing to maintain adequate records, evaluate risks of pipeline corrosion and leaks, and prioritize and address potential threats between 2003 and 2010. 

The segment of Line 132 that ruptured was installed in approximately 1956 and had a defective seam weld, but was incorrectly listed in PG&E records as seamless, according to the indictment. 

Federal law provides that if PG&E is convicted, the penalty would be either a fine totaling $6 million for the 12 charges or the amount of the loss created, which could be calculated as either the loss caused to victims or the financial gain the company made as a result of the violation. 

Prosecutors indicated at Monday morning's hearing that they plan to seek the second, larger amount if the utility is convicted. 

Outside of court, Steven Meyers, a lawyer for the city of San Bruno, said he didn't know how much that total might be, but said it would be "much larger" than $6 million. 

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said, "We're pleased that the United States government has indicted PG&E and made a strong statement." 

PG&E said in a statement, "San Bruno was a tragic accident that caused a great deal of pain for many people. We're accountable for that and make no excuses." 

The utility said, "While we don't believe any employee intentionally violated federal pipeline safety regulations, the legal process will ensure that all of the facts related to this tragic event are fully reviewed." 

In a separate administrative proceeding, the California Public Utilities Commission is currently considering a proposal by its safety division staff to impose a $2.25 billion penalty on PG&E for violations related to the San Bruno explosion. 

The proposed civil penalty, if selected by the commission, would include a $300 million fine that would go into the state's general fund, while the remainder could pay for pipeline repairs and upgrades. 

Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Concerned Citizen April 22, 2014 at 09:38 AM
And PG&E is putting out all kinds of folksy TV ads making themselves sound like they are all about people and families....WHAT A GIANT CROCK!
Geo Kitta April 22, 2014 at 10:54 AM
...wait, a large corporation pleads not guilty to obvious crimes? I'm shocked!
Jeffrey April 23, 2014 at 10:59 AM
Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations for private profit... in contrast to Socialism (co-operatives) or Communism (state ownership) - whereby people work or act together for a collective or social benefit. Hence PG&E is saying we are acting to benefit our private or corporate stockholders! We didn't do anything wrong - according to the definition of capitalism! In essence, under capitalism, PROFITS are Privatized, and LOSSES are Socialized!
Concerned Citizen April 23, 2014 at 11:47 AM
....and hypocrisy is ignored!
Concerned Citizen April 23, 2014 at 12:01 PM
These companies think little of life; money is their bottom line. It is like BP, they are willing to take risks with the safety of others, (and the environment) because they figure the money they save will be huge, and public memory is short! Those who die are merely collateral damage. Then they make ads that say how much they "really care!" They should save that BS ad money and use it for making improvements on their pipelines and rigs! Stick it to these oil a-holes, and go green!


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