The fireball which engulfed a San Bruno neighborhood and killed eight people wasn't a surprise to Pacific Gas & Electric Company, according to a senior engineer -- it was anticipated.
The utility giant knew that its inaccurate, incomplete pipeline records posed a risk of injury or death to those living near its gas mains, yet "chose not to fix the problem," witnesses testified in a lawsuit filed in San Mateo County in response to the disaster. PG&E has said the explosion was an accident.
Senior Gas Engineer Todd Arnett told attorneys during deposition that he warned his superiors at the company of record-keeping errors, but was told to keep on and not change anything, according to reports.
In addition, PG&E sliced its pipeline maintenance budget by 25 percent from 2008 to 2010; received a warning in 1987 from the Bechtel Corp. that its records were incomplete; managers knew the line that exploded in San Bruno had never been tested, a test that could have prevented the disaster; and PG&E saved $60 million by downgrading a pipe replacement program from 165 miles to 25 miles.
The wrongful death lawsuits filed against the utility have all been settled out of court, but 350 more cases could go to trial in the fall, according to reports.