PG&E Will Face Maximum Fine of $562 Million in San Bruno-Related Trial, Judge Decides

A federal judge cut in half the maximum fine that prosecutors can seek against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in a criminal case connected to the deadly natural-gas explosion in San Bruno.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco means PG&E will face a maximum fine of $562 million when it goes to trial on 27 felony counts of pipeline safety code violations and one felony count of obstruction of justice.

The ruling Tuesday nixed any effort by the government to seek more than $1.1 billion.

Henderson said the government could not rely on civil settlements PG&E reached with victims of the blast to determine their losses. The government could have used the loss figure to arrive at the $1.1 billion fine.

Trying to prove victims' losses absent the settlements would be "massively" complicated, Henderson said.

Prosecutors still must justify the $562 million sum to Henderson by January, two months before the trial is scheduled to begin.

PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said in a statement the company remains focused on its mission of "becoming the safest, most reliable gas company in the nation" regardless of Henderson's decision or the next legal steps.

The 2010 San Bruno blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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