New utility company indictment in fatal gas blast could lead to fines of as much as $1.3B

Criminal Justice

New utility company indictment in fatal gas blast could lead to fines of as much as $1.3B

Jul 30, 2014, 05:55 pm CDT

A federal grand jury in San Francisco on Tuesday returned a new indictment against a California utility company in a fatal 2010 natural gas explosion and fire.

Under the superseding indictment, which more than doubles the number of regulatory violations alleged against Pacific Gas & Electric and includes an obstruction count, the company could face as much as $1.3 billion in penalties, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

A previous indictment, which included 12 counts alleging that the company had violated the federal Pipeline Safety Act, could have resulted in as much as $6 million in penalties.

At issue in the case are pressure surges in the supply line leading to San Bruno, where the April 2010 accident occurred, killing eight, injuring 53, leveling 38 homes and damaging another 70.

Federal regulations required the line to be inspected after such surges, but PG&E failed to do so, the indictment says. Further, the company lied when a representative publicly claimed after the explosion that a PG&E document establishing less stringent inspection rules for its engineers to follow after pressure surges was only a draft, the indictment states. That resulted in the obstruction charge.

A cracked weld on a transmission pipeline reportedly caused the explosion.

See also: “Utility company is criminally charged in fatal pipeline explosion fire that leveled a neighborhood”

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