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In September 2010 a natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric exploded into flames, destroying the neighbourhood of San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco. Eight people were killed in the disaster and the National Transportation Safety Board blamed PG&E’s lazy approach to pipeline safety, and weak supervision by the state and federal regulators.
The California Public Utilities Commission has now decided that it may fine the utility $2.25 billion for its role in the explosion, and force the entire amount to be spent on improving safety to avoid such events in the future.
In a statement on Monday it was admitted that the $2.25 billion would be a record fine for the states pipeline regulators, and Tony Earley, the chief executive officer of PG&E claimed that it was merely being used as another excuse to punish his company, and completely ignored everything that they had done in the aftermath of the explosion and fire to try and repair the damage and prevent similar accidents in the future. He worried, or threatened, that such a large fine would make it difficult to afford the installation of appropriate safety equipment in the future.
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To date PG&E have already spent more than $1 billion and the Commission agreed that this would be counted towards the fine.
PG&E now have a chance to respond to the Commission about the idea of the fine, and then an official decision will be made late this summer.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com