PG&E Corp. said it expects to face criminal charges in the 2010 explosion in San Bruno, California that killed eight people. The company is the owner of California’s largest utility. The event was the result of natural gas pipelines exploding.
The expected cause of actions from the U.S. Attorney’s Office include violation of federal regulations on record keeping, pipeline integrity management and identifying threats leading to the explosion and deaths. PG&E says the charges are without merit. The owner of PG&E said the expected charges come after potential settlement discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office broke down.
PG&E’s disclosed they would settle all substantial remaining property damage and personal injury claims stemming from the explosion. The company previously stated they face about 160 lawsuits filed on behalf of 500 people and a total possible loss of $600 million. The company also faces a proposed $2.25 billion penalty from California regulators. PG&E contends their employees did not violate the federal Pipeline Safety Act.
PG&E has faced extensive litigation prior to this explosion. The company was responsible for groundwater contamination in the town of Hinkley, California. The groundwater was contaminated with hexavalent chromium, which caused elevated clusters of illnesses within the community. In 1996, the company settled for $333 million, the largest settlement in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history.
A series of leaks and fatal explosions across the nation in the past four years has focused attention of how companies are maintaining and replacing their networks of old pipelines. The oil and gas industry has chosen to spin these explosions and leaks as anomalies, not regular occurrences. Oil and gas companies are concerned about these criminal charges tainting the entire industry and the action required to redouble their efforts to show positive business practices.
The companies seem to view these efforts to exhibit positive business practices as a monetary burden rather than a step towards increased public safety.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a pipeline explosion, please contact the lawyers at Watts Guerra.