A federal grand jury issued a new criminal indictment against PG&E late Tuesday afternoon in connection with the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. The revised indictment charges the utility with obstructing the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation and 27 counts of knowingly and willfully violating the Pipeline Safety Act. The indictment added 16 new charges.
“This is huge,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “And hopefully this will spark what really has to be done with our utility, the management of our utility and the oversight of this utility.”
PG&E officials immediately issued a statement saying they have not yet viewed the indictment, but that they do not believe the charges are warranted.
According to the indictment, PG&E provided NTSB with a draft policy outlining how the utility addressed manufacturing problems with its pipelines. PG&E later withdrew the policy, saying it was an unapproved draft. However, PG&E had been operating under the draft from 2009 through April 2011. The indictment — which replaces one issued by the grand jury in April — charges that, because of the draft policy, PG&E did not properly prioritize many of its oldest natural gas pipelines as high risk.
The utility also faces 27 additional charges for violating the Pipeline Safety Act for poor record keeping and pipeline management practices. An investigation found that a large portion of PG&E’s records were either inaccurate or missing.
If convicted, PG&E could face court-ordered oversight as well as fines. Separately, PG&E faces a fine of up to $2 billion from the California Public Utilities Commission. The company also will pay $565 million in legal settlements to victims.
PG&E is next scheduled to appear in court Aug. 18.