Destoryed homes and cars after the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. Image courtesy of WeaponBB7/Wikimedia Commons.

California regulatory judges recommended Tuesday that utility company PG&E pay a $1.4 billion penalty for a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed three dozen homes in a suburb of San Francisco.

The California Public Utilities Commission found PG&E to be in violation of 3,800 state and federal laws, regulations and standards when the pipeline exploded in San Bruno.

A 2011 investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the blast was the result of a rupture at a weak weld in a pipeline.

The report also said that PG&E let 95 minutes go by after the blast before cutting off the gas supply.

The judges recommended that $950 million of the penalty be paid directly to the state of California. That payment would have no strings attached to it and would go to the state’s general fund.

San Bruno city officials and PG&E objected to the disbursement of the penalty, arguing that the funds should be used to update the state’s pipeline network, the San Francisco Gate said.

The recommendation calls for $400 million to be spent on pipeline improvements and about $50 million to go towards improving pipeline safety.

“We are accountable and fully accept that a penalty is appropriate,” PG&E said.

PG&E has 30 days to appeal the recommendation.

“We’re reviewing the decision and believe that any penalty should go toward pipeline safety,” PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said.

The penalty still has to be approved by the members of California’s utility board.

PG&E can not raise its rates to recover the penalty money.

After the blast, PG&E was ordered to pay $635 million for pipeline modernization. The new penalty does not include the former payment.

PG&E also faces additional fines of more than $1 billion if it is found guilty of violating federal laws and regulations. PG&E pleaded not guilty to those charges.


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