Last Tuesday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) was convicted of obstructing the federal probe and violating various safety laws associated with the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion of 2010. The San Francisco Gate reported that PG&E was found guilty of five different felony counts of knowingly failing to inspect and test its gas lines for potential dangers. Additionally, there was a conviction of felony obstruction of the federal probe. During the investigation, evidence was also brought to light that PG&E officials tried to derail the investigation by denying a practice of pumping natural gas through aging pipelines at excessive pressures. The company was acquitted of six other charges, including deliberately failing to maintain proper records of pipeline tests and repairs.
San Bruno Natural Gas Explosion
On the evening of September 9, 2010, an explosion of the natural gas pipeline in the Crestmoor neighborhood sent flames nearly 1,000 feet into the air and killed eight people, seriously injured dozens of others and devastated homes in the area. At this time, PG&E is facing a maximum total fine of $3 million for the convictions. Initially, prosecutors sought a much higher amount, but a judge’s ruling during the trial forced them to scale back on potential penalties. Prosecutors were initially seeking $562 million for convictions on all 12 counts. This number was figured at twice the amount that the company saved by illegally cutting vital safety programs. As of Tuesday, a sentencing date had not yet been scheduled.
Profits Over Safety
The overwhelming theme of this case was profits over safety. There was instance after instance of corners being cut and safety being disregarded in order to boost shareholder profits. Ultimately, it was discovered that a defective seam weld in a 30-inch transmission pipeline was the cause of the explosion. This portion of the pipeline was from the 1950s, and according to PG&E, was labeled as “seamless.” PG&E had so many opportunities to act in accordance with federal safety regulations to prevent this fatal and injury causing natural gas explosion, but instead, they put profits over people.
Corporate Negligence in San Jose
Corporate negligence and willfully ignoring public safety obviously is not limited to PG&E exposing California residents from San Francisco to San Jose. Defrauding consumers is how United States corporations operate, as my lawsuits over 40 years against Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, BMW, Nissan Motor, Honda, Pacific Gas & Electric, General Electric, Amtrak, Southern PacificRailroad, DuPont, Shell Oil, Amoco, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Sears, Nationwide Insurance, Allstate Insurance, Fluor Corporation, Bausch & Lomb and more. Corporate fraud putting profits ahead of human lives and plain cheating cannot be solved with civil lawsuits. When corporations endanger lives treat the corporation as criminals and put them out of business. A half-financial dozen executions of outlaw corporations by putting them out of business will get everyone’s attention. Civil lawsuits are never going to do it. Criminal prosecutors, this case being the exception, are overburdened with responding to local crimes, which make voters feel physically threatened. Once voters demand corporate justice that will change.
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