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Report: PG&E misled federal investigators after San Bruno, trial witness says

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Report: PG&E misled federal investigators after San Bruno, trial witness says

A key National Transportation Safety Board investigatorunequivocally testified in Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s criminal trial that thecompany misled the federal board, TheMercury News of San Jose, Calif.,reported July 20.

PG&E is facing 12 felony counts of violating the NaturalGas Pipeline Safety Act, as well as a count of obstructing the NTSB'sinvestigation into the fatal 2010 San Bruno, Calif., incident. The obstruction charge centers on an exchangebetween the company and the board in April 2011.

"Did PG&E mislead you in your investigation?"prosecuting attorney Hallie Hoffman asked witness Ravindra Chhatre, the NTSB'slead investigator for the San Bruno explosion, according to The Mercury News.

"Yes," Chhatre replied.

The indictment alleged that PG&E gave the NTSB the company's true risk-managementinstruction document as part of the board's investigation into the 2010explosion but then on April 6, 2011, retracted the document, falsely that the risk managementinstructions provided were just a draft and not the company's actual policy.The risk management instructions PG&E handed over would not have been inkeeping with regulatory requirements for how a pipeline operator is supposed totreat risks, the prosecution has said.

In recent testimony, Chhatre reportedly said the NTSB foundindications that PG&E had been relying on problematic records for its gaspipeline operating pressures, including on the pipe that ultimately exploded,killing eight people, The Mercury News reported. He added thatPG&E seemed to be following company guidelines that were out of step withfederal rules, the report said.

Chhatre also noted that the subsidiary hadincorrectly told theNTSB that the pipe that ruptured was seamless and without welds, and thecompany had breached NTSB protocol by interviewing a witness in theinvestigation before the board was able to, the report said.