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PG&E Gets Five Years Probation in San Bruno Case

San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) was sentenced by a federal court judge Thursday to five years probation for each of the six criminal counts of which it was found guilty last year.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said the five years for each count would run concurrently, and he ordered the giant combination utility to pay a $3 million fine -- $500,000 for each of the counts -- and a special assessment of $2,400.

"The special assessment and fine must be paid as a lump sum within 60 days," a court spokesperson told NGI. "The judgment also contains special conditions imposed by the court." Neither the spokesperson nor a PG&E spokesperson would confirm what these other conditions are.

Following a hearing last Monday, news media reported that Henderson was considering placing community requirements on PG&E as a result of its criminal conviction for its part in the 2010 natural gas transmission pipeline ruptureand explosion in San Bruno, which killed eight people and devastated a residential neighborhood.

PG&E was balking at requirements that it cite its conviction in company advertising and alter an employee bonus program as part of the special conditions, but it was unclear Thursday whether these conditions were included.

Instead, PG&E issued a four-paragraph apology after the federal conviction and sentencing on five of 11 counts of violating the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act, and one count of obstructing an agency proceeding.

PG&E said "words are not enough, and we expect to be judged by our actions." Pointing out that the company has met 11 of 12 recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board, utility officials have said, "we fully recognize that we will always have more work to do, and we sincerely apologize to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured; we want them to know our mission, our commitment to safety will never stop."

No PG&E employees were charged in the federal criminal case. A potential $562 million fine was dropped by the prosecution during jury deliberations.

Separately, the utility has been assessed several billion dollars in regulatory and civil penaltiesrelated to San Bruno.

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