PG&E Get Maximum Sentence for San Bruno Crimes

January 26, 2017

Mercury News
By George Avalos

SAN BRUNO — A federal judge Thursday sentenced PG&E for crimes linked to the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion, imposing the maximum fine of $3 million and branding the utility as a convicted felon.

The sentencing for PG&E’s conviction on six criminal charges closes a devastating chapter in American corporate history, more than six years after a PG&E natural gas pipeline ruptured and unleashed a fireball that killed eight and destroyed a quiet residential neighborhood.

At a sentencing hearing in San Francisco, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson also ordered PG&E to submit to court-ordered supervision of its natural gas operations. “As a part of the sentence, the court has imposed upon PG&E a monitor to ensure the company’s future compliance with the rules and regulations the company has chosen in the past to flaunt,” U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch said.

Appointing a monitor for PG&E also appears to be a rebuke of the state Public Utilities Commission, a powerful regulatory agency whose duties include oversight of PG&E and other big California utilities.

“The monitor is the most significant part of this, because the monitor is crucial as we move forward to guarantee that PG&E puts the public’s safety first, which they have been unwilling to do,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat whose San Mateo County district includes San Bruno. “We have been paying the PUC to do this monitoring, but it is clear that the PUC is really incapable of the oversight necessary to guarantee that utilities operate safely in California.”