A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted PG&E on numerous violations in connection with a 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people, injured 58 and leveled dozens of homes.
PG&E, headquartered in San Francisco, is charged with committing 12 violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act and its regulations between 2003 and 2010. The violations, which stem from PG&E’s record keeping and pipeline “integrity management” practices, were uncovered during an investigation initiated after the Sept. 9, 2010, explosion and fire in San Bruno’s Crestmoor neighborhood.
San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane called the indictment a “positive step” as the city continues to rebuild and recover from the explosion, and praised the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its work on the case.
“We have to commend the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for following through on this very aggressively,” Ruane said.
The indictment alleges that PG&E failed to address record-keeping deficiencies concerning its larger natural gas pipelines, knowing that their records were inaccurate or incomplete.
According to the indictment, PG&E allegedly failed to identify threats to its larger natural gas pipelines and did not take appropriate actions to investigate the seriousness of threats to pipelines when they were identified.
Additionally, the indictment claims that PG&E failed to adequately re-prioritize and assess threatened pipelines after they were over-pressurized, as required by the safety act and its regulations.
The charges come as the California Public Utilities Commission’s administrative law judges are expected to issue their recommended penalty in the coming weeks. The commission’s five-member board will ultimately determine how much PG&E will be fined.
Ruane also called for an independent monitor to be implemented. He said the city doesn’t trust PG&E or the CPUC to follow through on safety improvements, and an independent monitor would help ensure public safety and restore public confidence.
“The bottom line is we never want this to happen again, anywhere,” Ruane said.
The prosecution against PG&E is the result of a three-year investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the California Attorney General’s Office, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, the FBI, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, and the San Bruno Police Department.
Arraignment on the indictment in U.S. Magistrate Court has not yet been scheduled.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count for a corporation is $500,000, or a fine based on the gain the corporation made as a result of the violation or the loss caused to victims.