By Miriam Raftery
Photo by Mister Oh
July 30, 2014 (San Francisco) – A federal grand jury has indicted Pacific Gas & Electric for allegedly obstructing an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the deadly San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. In addition, the public utility is charged with 27 counts of willfully violating the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.
The announcement was made Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, California Attorney General Kalama Harris, as well as San Mateo County’s District Attorney and representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Transportation.
The indictment contends that PG&E failed to prioritize many aging natural gas pipelines as priorities in urban and residential areas . The company is also accused of keeping inaccurate or incomplete records, failing to identify many threats to its pipelines and failing to take appropriate actions to investigate even when threats were identified, among other allegations.
The maximum statutory penalty for each of the 28 counts filed against PG&E is a half million dollar fine, or a fine based on the twice the gross gain that PG&E made as a result of the violations, or twice the losses suffered by the victims.
The indictment alleges that PG&E derived gross gains of $281 million, and victims suffered losses of approximately $565 million. Thus the company could potentially have to pay out over a billion dollars if found guilty on these counts.
PG&E is next scheduled to appear on August 18th before U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson, United States District Judge.