PG&E Claims Fatal Explosion Was Irrelevant

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Federal prosecutors and PG&E battled in court Monday over whether a judge should strike from an obstruction indictment references to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a neighborhood.
     Three weeks ago PG&E filed a motion arguing that references to the explosion were “irrelevant and prejudicial” to the July superseding indictment accusing the utility of obstructing a government investigation and violating the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act. Pacific Gas & Electric claimed that the grand jury never alleged that any of the felonies caused the explosion.
     Prosecutors shot back a week later, saying the felonies and explosion are clearly linked .
     In court Monday, attorneys for both sides reiterated their cases, and answered questions from U.S. district Judge Thelton Henderson.
     PG&E attorney Steve Bauer argued that correlation does not equal causation. “If it was sunny all last week and the stock market goes up … does it mean the stock market went up because it was sunny?” he asked.
     But U.S. Attorney Kim Berger said had PG&E followed the law and done required testing on pipelines, the explosion would have been prevented.
     As for the obstruction charge, Berger said: “I don’t see how there can be any possible argument that the explosion is irrelevant. … How can you talk to a jury about the obstruction of an investigation if the jury doesn’t know what the investigation is about?”
     Henderson did not indicate when he might rule on the motion. The parties are expected in court again Nov. 3 for a status hearing.

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