In September of 2010, a Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) pipeline burst in San Bruno, California, causing a fire which killed 8 people, injured 58 and destroyed 38 homes. A jury in San Francisco recently found the company to be guilty of five felony charges, and PG&E will be required to spend millions of dollars advertising their fault and the steps they are taking to improve safety in their infrastructure.
The explosion occurred when a pressurized natural gas pipeline ruptured at a seam that was welded incorrectly. The mayor of San Bruno commented on the company’s role in the event, saying, “PG&E put profits ahead of safety. As a result, eight people in San Bruno lost their lives, 38 homes were destroyed, a neighborhood was obliterated and a city was traumatized.”
During the trial that took place in the summer of 2016, jurors found PG&E guilty of implementing low-quality inspections methods to cut costs and failing to repair aging pipelines (such as the one that burst in San Bruno). In addition, the company was found guilty of obstruction of justice due to their concealment during a federal investigation of the company’s “practice of pumping gas through the lines at pressures up to 10 percent above legal limits.” PG&E is California’s largest utility company, earning $2.38 billion in profit in 2015.
The oil and gas company has already paid $1.7 billion in fines and restitution, including many private settlements with victims and their families. In January of 2017, the sentence for the criminal convictions was finally passed down, requiring 10,000 hours of community service to be performed by PG&E employees, 2,000 of which must be completed by high-level executives. The company will also submit to a five-year probation period during which they will revise their program on ethics and compliance with the help of a court-appointed monitor.
The company will also be required to air a series of 12,500 advertisements over a period of three months “clarifying [the] nature of offenses committed, convictions, nature of punishments imposed, and steps to be taken to prevent the occurrence of similar offenses.” Within 60 days, PG&E must also place full page ads to the same effect in both the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle.
This punitive measure was implemented in direct response to PG&E’s series of advertisements aired last summer during the trial which espoused the company’s commitment to safety. The company originally contested this particular punishment but agreed to the terms of the prosecution before the sentence came down.
Corporations sometimes believe that their profit margin is more important than the regulatory measures put in place to protect their workers and everyday citizens. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed as a result of unsafe corporate procedures or inadequate maintenance, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
About the Author