PG&E: Federal criminal charges likely in San Bruno explosion

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ByAlan Wang KGO logo
Thursday, March 27, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- PG&E is waiting to get hit with criminal charges. The federal government is expected to go after the utility for that pipeline disaster in San Bruno more than three years ago.

The gas explosion was always a crime in the eyes of Gayle Masuno whose 87-year old mother was severely burned.

"I'm taking care of my mother, not working. I had to quit my job," said Masuno.

Thursday, PG&E said it expects the U.S. attorney will file criminal charges against it for neglecting the safety of its pipeline and its customers. Eight people were killed and 38 homes destroyed when a natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno back in 2010.

Today many of the victims are living in brand new, well-manicured homes, but it was never enough. They've always wanted criminal charges filed.

"I wish they would cite the executives. Especially the one who left with his $30 million severance package," said Joanne McGlothlin, a gas explosion victim.

That's not likely to happen. Instead, they got a video apology from a company spokesperson released by PG&E Thursday.

In the video PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo said, "Regardless of what comes next, we want all the families we serve to know that we've learned from the tragic lesson of San Bruno, that safety must always come first."

But PG&E says it believes, "Even where mistakes were made, employees were acting in good faith."

However, State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, told ABC7 News, "That's not true. I think it's very disingenuous to say that when they intentionally spent the money elsewhere."

Hill points to a Public Utilities Commission report that found PG&E diverted money away from safety improvements and put it toward higher salaries and bonuses.

But now, PG&E says a criminal case with tough sanctions could seriously damage its finances and its ability improve its 100-year-old pipeline.

Rep. Jackie Speier released a statement on the possible charges. It reads in part, "Seared into my memory are the distraught families searching for their loved ones... justice must be served and I applaud the U.S. Attorney's office for its exhaustive investigation..."