CORRECTION: While initially reporting that a fine was issued for the San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire, this was NOT the case. Today's ruling was regarding PG&E "delaying and mischaracterizing" the correction of an error in its San Carlos pipeline record-keeping. Concerns about a gas pipeline in San Carlos arose in November 2012, and today an Administrative Law judge ruled that the utility should be penalized for their mishandling of this situation, especially after what happened in San Bruno in 2010.
George Avalos for the Oakland Tribune reports:
PG&E should be fined nearly $6.8 million -- the maximum allowable by law -- because the embattled utility failed to promptly and properly notify regulators about incorrect records related to a natural gas pipeline beneath San Carlos, a state hearing officer proposed Wednesday.
The fines were proposed in connection with PG&E's erroneous records related to Line 147 beneath San Carlos and two other natural gas pipelines on the Peninsula, according to the proposal issued by state Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey. The records provided incorrect information about the maximum allowable pressure for Line 147.
Regarding San Bruno, Avalos goes on to add. "PG&E's faulty records were found to be a key cause of the 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. "
Judge Bushey chastised PG&E and its main counsel for willfully trying to mislead the court and the public with regard to the faulty record keeping of the utility, and said that the documentation regarding the problematic gas line in San Carlos was "distressingly similar" to the San Bruno situation.
In December, PG&E fired or suspended 18 employees over the fraudulent inspection of pipes in relation to the September 2010 San Bruno disaster.
The potential fine for San Bruno is still being hashed out, but as of July, the proposed number was in the ballpark $2.25 to $3.8 billion, much of which PG&E could deduct from its taxes.
SFist regrets the error.
A judge has ruled that PG&E will have to pay a $6.75 million fine to the states general fund in restitution for the 2010 gas main explosion in San Bruno that killed 8 people and leveled part of a neighborhood. You may recall that PG&E tried to get out of paying any fine at all, saying that they had already expended over $200 million in pipeline repairs and checks, but of course that is ridiculous since it was a lack of proper checks and maintenance that resulted in the blast in the first place. The judge ruled that the company is liable to pay the sum, which, honestly, sounds like chump change for the enormous utility. And she added that she was disturbed by their trying to pass off the pipe problems and their record-keeping errors as "a routine and nonsubstantive" issues. She went further to accuse PG&E's lead lawyer Joseph Malkin of willfully trying to downplay the inaccurate records the company kept on the San Bruno pipe they had the pipe recorded as being "seamless" when in fact it had notoriously problematic seam welds that dated to the 1920s. Malkin buried this bit of information in a filing in July, and Judge Maribeth Bushey said he should know better. It took quite a while for PG&E even to admit any liability in the blast, and we're not sure if this is the end of the story for the San Bruno case. Anyway. Pshaw. $6.75 million.