Government Law

State legal team seeking $2B fine in fatal gas fire is reassigned; city calls for AG probe

The city of San Bruno is calling for the California attorney general to investigate a decision to reassign four lawyers leading a California Public Utilities Commission legal team. For the past three years, it has been pursuing an investigation of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s culpability in a 2010 natural gas explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

Mayor Jim Ruane also calls for the state legislature to intervene in a Wednesday press release.

The city wants to see $2.25 billion in fines imposed against the gas company. However, the gas company has been arguing that past and future system improvements in that amount should be credited toward the $2.25 billion total. That, the city says, would provide $900 million in tax benefits to the gas company, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The situation apparently came to a head on Monday, when the administrative law judges overseeing the case agreed with a filing by attorney Harvey Morris, who heads the CPUC legal team. It argued that the gas company’s numbers supporting the system improvements claim were unsubstantiated.

Later that day, the Chronicle says, Morris and three other lawyers in charge of the CPUC legal team were reassigned by Frank Lindh, the general counsel of CPUC. Lindh formerly worked for PG&E and had put Morris in charge of the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

On Wednesday, Lindh was out of the office and could not be reached for comment by the newspaper.

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