PG&E Criminal Trial Delayed

The Pacific Gas & Electric Co. criminal trial over the 2010 San Bruno natural gas explosion has been delayed three weeks until April 12.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson pushed back the March 22 date based on the continued wrangling over documents, including emails between the company and its criminal defense lawyers.  The government wants to look at the emails to determine if outside lawyers at Latham & Watkins played a role in drafting a letter at the center of an obstruction of justice claim in the case.

PG&E faces charges, including obstruction, over the natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes, as well partially damaging 70 more, in the small town near the San Francisco airport in 2010.

The allegation that PG&E obstructed a National Transportation Safety Board inquiry into the blast stems from alleged violation of the National Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

The indictment alleges PG&E provided the NTSB with a version of its policy outlining the way the company addressed manufacturing threats to safety in pipelines. PG&E later withdrew that policy claiming it was a draft produced in error. But prosecutors allege that PG&E had been operating under that “draft” policy from 2009 to 2011.

The government has been struggling to keep the case on track.  In December, Henderson threw out more than half the original 28 criminal charges. PG&E now faces 12 counts of violating the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act and one count of obstruction.

Henderson also has reduced PG&E’s potential criminal fine if it is found guilty from the government’s maximum request of $1.3 billion to $562 million.

Case:  U.S. v. PG&E, No. CR14-175TEH

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