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PG&E moves forward with court-appointed monitor for pipeline safety

This is an undated image of an electricity meter. (KGO-TV )

PG&E Co. and federal prosecutors have agreed on choosing a Chicago lawyer to be a court-appointed monitor who will make sure the utility obeys pipeline safety rules for the next five years.

The selection of Mark Filip was announced late Monday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco.

The requirement for a monitor was set by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson during PG&E's sentencing in San Francisco on Jan. 26 for six criminal counts.

PG&E's conviction by jury in Henderson's court last year included five counts of violating a federal pipeline safety law and one count of obstructing a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the fatal natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010.

The monitorship is a condition of five years of probation for PG&E.

"The goal of the monitorship shall be to prevent the criminal conduct with respect to gas pipeline transmission safety that gave rise to" the indictment in the case, Henderson said in the sentencing order.

The judge also fined PG&E the maximum amount of $3 million and ordered it to explain its conviction and steps for improvement in newspaper and television advertisements.

Filip is a specialist in government regulation enforcement and white-collar crime. He previously served as a federal judge in Chicago for four years and as a federal prosecutor.

During the sentencing, Henderson said the U.S. Attorney's Office and PG&E could agree on a monitor, but said he would select one if they did not agree.

He said the monitor must make sure PG&E takes "reasonable and appropriate steps" to test gas transmission pipelines, maintain pipeline safety, implement an effective ethics and compliance program, and operate a safety-related employee incentive program.

Eight people died, 66 were injured and dozens of houses were damaged or destroyed when a flawed and improperly inspected high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline exploded in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010.

Henderson listed a series of activities and standards for the monitor that are based on recommendations and orders by the NTSB and California Public Utilities Commission stemming from investigations of the explosion.

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