CPUC Lawyers Propose Revised San Bruno Blast Penalty, Including $300 Million Fine For PG&E

The California Public Utilities Commission’s Safety Division urged two administrative law judges today to recommend ordering PG&E to pay at least a $300 million fine to the state’s general fund for the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010.

The fine is part of a proposed $2.25 billion penalty, and the division recommended that most of the penalty be used to reduce the portion of PG&E’s pipeline repair and upgrade costs paid by customers rather than shareholders.

The proposed $300 million fine, if eventually approved by the commission, would be the largest in the agency’s history.

Safety division lawyers said in a filing in San Francisco that the San Bruno tragedy “was directly caused by PG&E’s unreasonable conduct and neglect for decades” and was “the worst disaster in the history of California electric and/or gas utilities.”

The total penalty of $2.25 billion is the same as that proposed by division director Jack Hagan in June, but the difference is that the previous proposal would have allowed PG&E to use most or all of that amount to cover shareholder expenses for repairs and improvements.

The pipeline explosion and subsequent fire on Sept. 9, 2010, killed eight people, injured 58 others, destroyed 38 houses and damaged 70 other buildings, according to the PUC.

PG&E has until July 25 to respond to the revised proposal, and other groups, including the city of San Bruno and The Utility Reform Network, can submit briefs by Aug. 1.

The administrative law judges will recommend a decision to the full commission, which will have the final word on the utility’s penalty.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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