Personal Injury Attorney David Lietz Says Tougher PG&E Penalties are a Step Forward

Washington, D.C. (Law Firm Newswire) August 13, 2013 — California regulators toughened their proposal to punish PG&E for a deadly pipeline explosion in 2010.

California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) attorneys asked the agency’s commissioners to fine Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. $300 million in addition to penalties in excess of $1.9 billion. The earlier proposal amounted to the same total but did not include a fine. Instead, it allowed PG&E to pay the entire penalty in the form of pipeline improvements.

“This is a penalty with teeth,” said Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney David Lietz. “PG&E should be penalized beyond simply modernizing its pipeline to make it safer, which clearly needs to be expedited in any case.”

The explosion in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco, killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. In separate investigations, state and federal investigators determined that PG&E was to blame for the accident, citing faulty welding, inadequate safety testing, and lost or incomplete records. PG&E has repeatedly accepted liability for the disaster, but has denied the majority of investigators’ allegations that it violated safety regulations.

The penalties proposed in a brief filed earlier this year were seen as far more lenient than the recent revision. It consisted entirely of infrastructure improvements ordered by the commission and included credits for funds already spent. San Bruno officials and consumer advocates objected to the proposal. The officials said it was tax-deductible and contained many credits and perks that made the penalties amount to very little.

Several PUC attorneys investigating the accident were removed from the case after objecting to the comparatively weak penalties. One attorney, Robert Cagan, went as far as to call them “unlawful” in correspondence with radio station KQED.

The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group, released a statement praising the revised proposal. But PG&E said such a large fine would undermine the company’s plans to modernize their pipeline by making it more difficult to raise the huge sums of money necessary to do so.

“Aging pipelines are a big problem in this country,” added Lietz. “Regulatory bodies need to help utilities with this issue, but the utilities need to know that expensive operations must not lead them to cut corners when it comes to safety.”

The Lietz Law Firm
888 16th Street NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20006
Call: 202.349.9869

View Larger Map

  • Night time breakdowns are an extreme hazard
    A recent double fatality accident demonstrates the extreme hazards posed by automobiles breaking down on highways during night time hours. On July 24, 2013 at 2:30 am, Anthony Lizza of Old Forge, PA, and Jeffrey Godeck of Moosic, PA, were stopped in the middle of the roadway on busy Interstate 81, just before the exit […]
  • Two Plant Explosions in Louisiana Add to Growing List of Deadly Industrial Accidents in 2013
    Accidents at industrial plants are occur all too often, even in facilities that do not deal with hazardous materials. But when explosive substances are added to the mix, accidents are more likely, and the results are often deadly. Fertilizer plants are hazardous environments because most fertilizers are highly explosive. Terrorists have used fertilizers to make […]
  • Another truck blocking the road
    As someone who is keenly interested in safety – safety on the roads, safety in the sky, safety in the workplace – it sometimes feels like one can’t stress the importance of certain basic safe practices often enough. To that end, even though I just blogged about a tractor trailer blocking the travel lanes of […]