Prosecutors Rest Their Case as PG&E Trial Wraps Up

Devastation in San Bruno, California caused by a 2010 gas pipeline explosion, by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) attorneys wrapped up its case on Friday after five weeks of testimony finally came to a close over whether the company criminally violated federal pipeline safety laws--allegations that resulted from the San Bruno gas explosion that occurred nearly six year ago.

Closing arguments will commence Tuesday as the jury decides whether the company chose profit over safety by taking shortcuts in testing the infrastructure and operations of its large network of pipelines and tried to interfere with a federal investigation into the San Bruno blast that killed eight people and left miles of destruction.

Prosecutors have been arguing their case in court since June 17 stating that PG&E consciously violated federal pipeline safety laws on testing, maintenance and record keeping. The company is also accused of hiding an alleged policy to test older pipelines for welding issues only when pressure in those pipes exceeded the federal maximum by 10 percent, leeway not permitted by federal law.

PG&E, who denies these charges, called on their defense witnesses last Thursday. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hallie Hoffman, the trial’s lead prosecutor, asked one of PG&E’s defense witnesses to locate on a map where the homes of the PG&E employees responsible for pipeline safety were located in respect to the San Bruno pipeline route that exploded in 2010.

The witness stated that the company does not create maps that show where people live in urban areas with pipelines the company has identified as unsafe.

Hoffman responded, “For the purpose of litigation this map was made, but for the purpose of tracking where safety threats are a map is not made?" This concluded the testimonies from PG&E's witnesses, and the trial was then turned to the jury.

PG&E is charged with 12 counts of violating pipeline safety laws and could be fined up to $562 million if the jury decides the prosecutors are correct.

Houston Chronicle