Town Square

No criminal charges in San Bruno blast

Original post made on Sep 11, 2013

Local prosecutors have decided not to pursue criminal charges against PG&E for the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, though the U.S. Attorney's Office has another two years to file a criminal case, an assistant district attorney said Tuesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 9:28 AM


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:05 am

The idea that the explosion that resulted from a defective weld that was (presumably) made in 1956 would produce a charge of criminality in 2013 is pretty daft. The resulting investigation has produced a lot of evidence that PG&E has not kept its records up-to-date certainly suggests that the CA PUC has not been doing its job in regulating this enterprise.

It’s certainly difficult to fathom why executives in large corporations like this one are paid the exorbitant salaries that they are, and are not ultimately held accountable, in some way, for these sorts of situations. But to suggest that executives should be held criminally liable for every weld in every bit of pipe in a system as large as PG&E’s service area is not rational.

It’s a shame that the same amount of scrutiny that has been paid PG&E is not being paid to the PUC.

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Posted by PG&E spellers piggy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

The fact that they are not being hit with criminal charges is criminal in itself. They are literally getting away with murder and criminal neglect, among other things.

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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 11:40 am

The National Transportation Safety Board report noted the lack of supervision which should have been provided by the California Public Utilities Commission. Like Joe, I am waiting to hear about shake-ups at the PUC. One of the commissioners was quoted in the newspapers as saying the public wanted cheap gas prices so the PUC provided them by not supervising PG&E safety procedures.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 11, 2013 at 1:44 pm

[Portion removed.]

We would not need the regulation if these companies who hole a lot of lives in their hands did their jobs competently. PG&E profitted from cutting maintenance on their infrastructure ... so being charged and sued is pretty much demanded in order to make sure they know profits cannot be make in this way.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm

> way to blame the victim

Wow! You really must share the name of you occulist--he's done such good work for you.

There is nothing in the post that remotely suggests that the victims caused this explosion. What is expressed is dismay that the various levels of law enforcement wasted two years rambling around inside a problem that they had no expertise in, and in which they ended up not finding any criminality.

This was not the same problem as the well-known "Ford Pinto" case of the late 1970s:
Web Link

There was no evidence that anyone in the PG&E management chain was aware that this weld, and any body of welds, were defective--yet they specifically gave orders not to fix the pipes with the defective welds.

Assuming that there was a defective weld in the San Bruno pipeline, that weld would have been the result of a defective bit of work by a welder, and presumably whatever passed as "inspection" in those days. It's hard to believe than anyone associated with that work is still alive. And even if they were--it's very unlikely that the local DAs would have actually charged a welder for this "crime".

This leads us to the broader issue of general pipeline safety. Since gas pipes rarely explode--the general sense that the whole system is unsafe because of a single explosion would be a hard sell, to a jury of twelve good men. So--we get farther and farther away from a "crime".

The recent crash at SFO was most likely pilot error. Do you think he should be charged with the deaths of those who didn't survive, or the president of the airline that employed him?

Maybe it makes for good theater, or PR, but this was a waste of time, from the git-go.

PG&E is going to pay a fairly hefty fine, and its settlement with those survivors, and the estates of those who perished, will run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

This was an accident. Perhaps it could have been prevented by some form of maintenance--but so far no one associated with the investigation seems to have come up with an evidence that PG&E purposefully subverted normal maintenance that has been shown to make the system unsafe.

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Posted by GoodGreif
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2013 at 5:32 pm

the amount of money is WAY UP THERE! WAY TOO MUCH.
People get things wrong, but you can't always know how it will hold up. You work with competent people and hope things go the right way.
But the city etc. DOES NOT NEED a BIG PENALTY, Good Grief.