California fines PG&E $97.5M for improper talks in San Bruno pipeline case
- California regulators have hit Pacific Gas & Electric with another fine related to the fatal San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion in 2010, this one totaling $97.5 million for improper communications with the Public Utilities Commission.
- As the Mercury News points out, the CPUC is also the agency levying the fines. More than $60 million will be assessed through revenues it will not be allowed to collect from ratepayers. Other portions will be paid to local governments.
- The San Bruno blast helped reveal a culture of close ties between PG&E and state regulators. The California utility was fined just over $1 million in 2014 for a series of emails that showed the utility attempting to negotiate with commissioners for a favorable judge to be assigned to its rate case.
Ultimately, the fallout of the San Bruno explosion, which killed eight people and destroyed a neighborhood, cost three executives their jobs. PG&E's improper communications with regulators also led CPUC President Michael Peevey to not seek reappointment.
In 2014, the release of 65,000 emails between the CPUC and PG&E revealed an all-too cozy relationship between PG&E and regulators. Total penalties from the incident have topped $2 billion. The commission unanimously voted to fine PG&E $1.6 billion in 2015 for violations of state and federal pipeline safety standards associated with the explosion.
The newest fine, according to the Mercury News, includes $73.5 million in lost revenue over the next few years. Additionally, PG&E will pay $12 million to the state treasury, $6 million to San Bruno and $6 million to San Carlos.
Just last year, the California Fair Political Practices Commission continued to dig into details surrounding the accident. The group requested additional documents related to San Bruno communications.
- The Mercury News PG&E fined $97.5 million for improper back-channel PUC talks
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