Utility charged with obstruction in 2010 Calif. pipeline blast

Pacific Gas & Electric has been charged with obstructing justice by lying to investigators about a major gas pipeline explosion in Northern California in 2010.

The United States attorney for San Francisco said Tuesday that PG&E officials lied to National Transportation Safety Board investigators after the San Bruno blast that killed eight and destroyed a large swath of a neighborhood. Company policies on maintenance and testing did not meet federal rules, so PG&E lied about them, the prosecutor said.

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“The consequence of this practice was that PG&E did not prioritize as high-risk, and properly assess, many of its oldest natural gas pipelines, which ran through urban and residential areas," the federal attorney said in a statement.

PG&E was charged with obstruction and 27 other counts, including keeping insufficient records and ignoring warnings about the state of the pipeline.

The charges apply only to the company, not to any individuals.

In a statement to The Associated Press, PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said he had not seen the charging documents, but they appeared to be unwarranted.

The utility faces up to $1 billion in fines from the new charges.