Feds Say PG&E Obstructed San Bruno Probe

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was charged Tuesday with obstructing a federal investigation into a 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and injured dozens in San Bruno, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
     A superseding indictment from a federal grand jury charges the utilities company with one count of obstruction and 27 counts of violating the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act. PG&E was charged in April with 12 counts of violating the safety act.
     Prosecutors say the utilities company lied to National Transportation Safety Board investigators about its pipeline safety policies. The government claims that PG&E operated under a dangerous policy from 2009 to mid-2011.
     “PG&E did not prioritize as high-risk, and properly assess, many of its oldest natural gas pipelines, which ran through urban and residential areas,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
     The indictment also accuses PG&E of more than two dozen violations of the 1968 pipeline safety law, including knowingly keeping inaccurate and incomplete records and not taking appropriate action when threats to pipelines were identified.
     The company’s approach to its work saved it $281 million but cost victims nearly $565 million in damages, prosecutors said. Under the new indictment, PG&E faces more than $1 billion in fines.
     PG&E said on its website that it “cooperated fully with the NTSB’s investigation and fully embraced the resulting recommendations.”
     In 2012 the company paid $70 million to the city of San Bruno to support community recovery efforts, PG&E says. It says it has established a $50 million trust fund to cover the cost of fire damage in the city and has given more than $50 million in goods, services, relief checks and more to affected residents.
     PG&E is due back in court on Aug. 18.

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