PG&E intends appeal of $1.4B fine for fatal blast

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 4, 2014 at 2:28 am •  Published: September 4, 2014
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An appeal is planned of a landmark $1.4 billion penalty recommended for a Northern California utility for a gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people, Pacific Gas and Electric said in a federal filing.

The utility said it plans to appeal to the California Public Utilities Commission within 30 days. Wednesday's filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission did not list a reason for the appeal, but PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said the utility wants the commission to take into consideration the $2.7 billion it will or already has spent on gas pipeline safety improvements.

"We're planning to ask the commission to review yesterday's recommendation to make sure that a final penalty counts all of the company's safety investments and actions to make the gas system the best in the country," Snapper said.

He said any penalty should also directly go toward public safety. By far the largest share of the $1.4 billion penalty recommended by two administrative law judges Tuesday would go directly to the state with no strings attached.

The $950 million portion marked for the state's general fund also drew objections from a private advocacy group for ratepayers and the city of San Bruno, the San Francisco suburb where the fiery 2010 explosion destroyed more than three dozen homes and became the state's deadliest utility disaster in decades.

Those funds can be spent any way the governor and Legislature see fit, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.

The penalty — the largest safety-related levy ever against a public utility in the state — also includes $400 million for pipeline improvements and about $50 million to enhance pipeline safety. PG&E cannot recover any of the money from customers.

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