California charges largest penalty for safety violations ever

Mia Hogan, Staff Writer

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) faces an additional $200 million penalty fee due to the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the pipeline explosion in San Bruno killed eight people, injured 66 others, and 38 homes. It was caused by a rupture in a defective seam weld in a pipeline segment that PG&E failed to correctly record as seamless.

Junior Sydney Cho said, “At the time, my seventh grade teacher Mr. Colt was living in San Bruno and witnessed the event from his house near the location. A whole section of homes were on fire and families were frantic in search of one another.”

Two California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) administrative law judges deemed that PG&E had violated nearly 3,800 state and federal laws and regulations in years leading up to the explosion.

“CPUC needs to remember the devastating effect of one deficient pipeline. With one bad pipe, who knows what else is wrong? CPUC needs to prevent these accidents from happening and increase safety measures,” said senior Brian Palma.

Last September, CPUC charged PG&E with the largest penalty ever for safety violations levied by the commission. Totaling at $1.4 billion in fines, PG&E would pay $950 million for the California General Fund and $635 million where PG&E shareholders must pay for the first stage of pipeline modernization.

The newly proposed fine of $1.6 billion was imposed due to PG&E’s safety violations. A majority of the penalty payment would shift the money into savings set aside for safety improvements.

PG&E would be paying $850 million to gas transmission pipeline safety infrastructure, $300 million to the state’s general fund, and a one-time fee of $400 million bill credit to gas customers.

Junior Alex Singer said, “California and other states need to remember the devastating effect of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion and need to use that accident to motivate companies such as PG&E to move forward and be committed to the prevention of such accident again with tighter safety regulations.”