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PG&E Settles Charges Over Data on Sea-Life Loss

May 28, 1997|From Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — PG&E Corp. has agreed to pay $14 million to settle federal and state charges that it gave regulators misleading data on the amount of sea life killed at its Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

The agreement, announced Tuesday by the Justice Department, resolves allegations over whether the cooling system at the power plant near San Luis Obispo drew in more sea life than reported by the company.

The settlement, filed in federal court in San Francisco, does not contain any admission of wrongdoing.

According to the department, PG&E misled regulators by indicating it could use the outflow from its cooling system to accurately measure the amount of small fish and other organisms taken into the system. The complaints charge that PG&E withheld test results showing a 90% reduction in sea life as water passes through the system.

Diablo Canyon spokesman Jeff Lewis said PG&E didn't report the data because executives believed the tests were flawed. He said other studies showed almost no loss of sea life in the cooling system.

"We wish now we had turned it in and explained why it was invalid," Lewis said.

Lewis said that as part of the settlement, the company will launch a new round of tests to ensure that the plant is environmentally sound.

According to the Justice Department, the company's Pacific Gas & Electric Co. subsidiary discovered in 1991 that it hadn't reported the information, as required under state and federal law. The company eventually provided the data to regulators in 1994.

State and federal officials also charged that the company submitted a series of inaccurate reports to regulators.

More than $6 million of the settlement payment will be used to fund two California environmental projects, the Justice Department said.

"This settlement guarantees that resources will be spent on protecting and improving the environment, rather than on protracted litigation," said Steven Herman, assistant administrator for enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Shares of San Francisco-based PG&E fell 25 cents to close at $22.125.

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