The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) pleaded not guilty on Monday in a Judicial Council Coordinated Proceeding (JCCP). The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California is doing a criminal investigation of PG&E's 2010 pipeline blast on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice.
PG&E states that it is not guilty of the federal charges regarding the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire in California. A blast in the natural gas pipeline occurred at 6:11 pm PDT on September 9, 2010, in San Bruno, California. PG&E's 30-inch (76 cm) diameter steel natural gas pipeline exploded into flames. Eight people were killed in this incident while 58 got injured.
Eyewitnesses reported the initial blast "had a wall of fire more than 1,000 feet high." PG&E issued an official press release on September 10, 2010. PG&E's president at that time, Christopher Johns, said that the company was not able to approach the source of the explosion to investigate the exact cause.
However, PG&E adopted new pipeline safety standards after the San Bruno pipeline blast accident. PG&E also brought in a new Chairman and CEO, Tony Earley, in 2011. He stated in late March that the company had been committed to $2.7 billion of the shareholders' money up until now and its operational progress was excellent.
According to RTTNews, 'In early April, the utility was indicted by a federal grand jury for the Northern District of California and charged with 12 felony counts of violating safety regulations leading up to the deadly blast in San Bruno. The indictment alleges PG&E of "knowingly and willfully" violating the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act or PSA of 1968 and its regulations between 2003 and 2010.'
Feds charge PG&E's record keeping and pipeline "integrity management" practices in this indictment. PG&E was not able to provide accurate or complete records of its larger natural gas pipelines, states the indictment. If the company is proved guilty, it may have to pay $3.5 million in statutory penalties. PG&E has already paid almost $500 million to the victims and families of the San Bruno pipeline blast.
The company The company has also established a $50 million trust as a recovery cost program for the City of San Bruno. And PG&E also provided $70 million funds to support all the pipeline blast recovery efforts. After the accident, a huge amount of over $1 billion has also been spent by PG&E for safety improvements. And the regulators clearly say that this amount could be included in the payment formalities concerning the fine.