PG&E guilty of federal charges in deadly California blast

August 9, 2016 7:00 PM EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Pacific Gas & Electric Co was found guilty on Tuesday of several federal charges stemming from a natural gas pipeline explosion in California that killed eight people and injured 58 others in 2010, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.

The utility was convicted of obstructing an investigation and violating pipeline safety regulations leading up to the deadly blast in San Bruno, a city of about 41,000 just south of San Francisco, spokesman Abraham Simmons said in an email.

The utility faces a maximum fine of $3 million, or $500,000 per guilty count, the unit of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp said in a statement.

"While we are very much focused on the future, we will never forget the lessons of the past," PG&E said. "We have made unprecedented progress in the nearly six years since the tragic San Bruno accident and we are committed to maintaining our focus on safety."

The U.S. Attorney's Office accused PG&E of knowingly relying on "inaccurate or incomplete" infrastructure management records and failing to investigate its high-pressure natural gas pipelines after potential hazards had been identified, according to court records.

The California Public Utilities Commission in 2015 levied a $1.6 billion fine against PG&E over the blast and other issues, which the utility did not appeal.

The fine ranks as its largest ever safety-related penalty, dwarfing a $38 million fine for PG&E over a 2008 natural gas explosion in the city of Rancho Cordova.

The company has also paid $500 million to settle civil lawsuits from people who had been injured or family members of those killed in the blast.

The utility said it has adopted new pipeline safety standards and spent some $2.7 billion in shareholder funds to improve its natural gas system.

(Reporting by Dan Levine and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang)



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