This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Prosecution in fatal California utility explosion case unexpectedly drops potential penalties by 99%

03 August 2016

US utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) will no longer face more than $562 million in fines if it is convicted on all charges in the criminal case linked to the fatal San Bruno explosion after prosecutors on August 2 abruptly proposed dropping 99% of the fines the utility faced. The most PG&E could be fined if convicted for the blast that killed 8 people would be $6 million. 

San Bruno fire 2010 - Image Andrew Oh - CC
San Bruno fire 2010 - Image Andrew Oh - CC

In the criminal prosecution, PG&E is accused of 11 felony violations of laws that require gas pipeline operators to inspect their lines closely for potential risks, and to test or replace lines that show signs of hazards, as well as maintaining accurate records.

The presiding judge approved the prosecutors’ move and although the latter declined to comment on the rationale behind the move, a court filing from PG&E indicated it may have been caused by defence team arguments that if the company were to be convicted on any charges, PG&E would then be forced in the penalty phase of the trial to present an extensive and complex defence. 

California state Senator Jerry Hill, whose San Mateo County district includes San Bruno, said: "This is unbelievable. There is no way to justify this move when weighed against the loss of eight lives."

In April 2015, the state Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E a record $1.6 billion for the September 2010 explosion and fire caused by a defective pipeline seam that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno. The fines, and any penalties in the criminal case, are charged to the utility’s shareholders rather than its ratepayers.


Print this page | E-mail this page

CSA Sira Test