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California PUC fines PG&E on ethics violations

December 19, 2013|By Marc Lifsher
  • A massive fire roars through San Bruno, Calif., after a PG&E natural gas pipeline explosion.
A massive fire roars through San Bruno, Calif., after a PG&E natural… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)

The California Public Utilities Commission has fined Pacific Gas & Electric Co. $14.4 million for failing to notify regulators about incorrect records on a natural gas pipeline running through the city of San Carlos.

"This penalty is designed to serve as a deterrent to similar behavior in the future," Commissioner Mark J. Ferron said. "There should be no question that the CPUC expects nothing less than forthright and timely disclosure in all matters of public safety."

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San Francisco-based PG&E acknowledged in a statement that its "communications efforts fell short of expectations in this instance" but called the amount of the fine "excessive."

The fine was handed down Thursday as part of the PUC's increased vigilance concerning safety issues after an explosion of another PG&E natural gas pipeline in the nearby city of San Bruno. The September 2010 blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. The PUC next year is expected to rule on a fine in that case that its safety division has recommended to be $2.2 billion.

The ethics violation in the San Carlos case involved PGE's not reporting the condition of a natural gas pipeline in a timely manner.

"Safety is our first priority," PUC President Michael R. Peevey said. "Noncompliance with our rules and procedures will not be tolerated."

In related business, the commission allowed PG&E to operate the San Carlos line at normal pressure after evidence was submitted that the line was fit for service.


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