Federal Charges Likely Against PG&E Over San Bruno

California utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., announced today it expects federal officials to bring criminal charges against the company in connection with a 2010 gas-pipeline blast in San Bruno, California.

In an official statement, PG&E said it is negotiating with the U.S. Attorney’s office. A disclosure document was filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission by PG&E Corp. and its subsidiary.

PG&E “Now expects that the U.S. Attorney will charge that PG&E’s past operating practices violated the federal Pipeline Safety Act in areas such as record keeping, pipeline integrity management and identification of pipeline threats,” it said in a statement. The Company expects the legal proceedings to be lengthy.

PG&E stated it thinks any criminal charges would not be merited and, as its employees did not intentionally violate federal pipeline safety laws.

In a prepared statement, PG&E Chairman and CEO Tony Earley, who was brought in to lead PG&E in 2011 after the San Bruno accident, said the company has tried “to do the right thing for victims.”

“San Bruno was a tragic accident that caused a great deal of pain for many people,” he said in the statement. “We’re accountable for that and make no excuses.”

Early said the utility “learned the tragic lesson of San Bruno that safety must always come first.”

“Toward this end, we’ve implemented enormous change here at PG&E,” he said. “We’re working to transform this 100-plus-year-old natural gas system into the safest and most reliable in America.”

PG&E said, “Even where mistakes were made, employees were acting in good faith to provide customers with safe, reliable, affordable, clean energy.”

Last year, PG&E announced it would pay out $565 million in legal settlements and other claims stemming from the 2010 natural gas explosion that killed eight people and devastated a neighborhood. The company has taken actions including the commitment of $2.7 billion of shareholder money to fund safety-related work and the replacement of 127 miles of pipeline.

This article will be updated as the story develops.

Source: Forbes Business

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