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PG&E sentenced to maximum $3M fine, outside monitor in San Bruno gas safety case

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PG&E sentenced to maximum $3M fine, outside monitor in San Bruno gas safety case

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. must pay the maximum $3 million fine, retain an outside monitor and publicly advertise its felony convictions as part of its sentence in a case stemming from the 2010 gas line explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, Calif.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson imposed the sentence Jan. 26, months after PG&E was found guilty of five counts of violating pipeline safety laws and one count of obstructing a federal investigation. PG&E had indicated earlier in January that it would not challenge the fines for the safety convictions.

Henderson also placed PG&E on five years' probation and ordered the company to complete 10,000 hours of community service, including 2,000 by high-ranking staff.

The PG&E Corp. subsidiary will have to establish an independent monitor "familiar with best practices for corporate codes of conduct, including implementation, training, and enforcement." The monitorship term is set to last five years.

The judge also imposed a more public penalty: a newspaper and television advertising campaign acknowledging PG&E's wrongdoing. The ads are to include full-page spreads in The Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as 12,500 60-second TV spots. The company must note not only its criminal conviction but also what it will do to remedy its safety violations.

No individuals were charged as part of the federal case.

In a statement, PG&E said it accepted the penalties.

"We want San Bruno and all of the communities we serve to know that we at PG&E have committed ourselves to a goal of transforming this company into the safest and most reliable energy provider in America and to re-earning their trust through our actions. Of course, words are not enough, and we expect to be judged by our actions," the company said. "We fully recognize that we will always have more work to do, regardless of the significant safety actions and investments we've made. We sincerely apologize to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured in this tragic explosion and we want them to know our mission and our commitment to safety will never stop. We will remain forever committed to taking action to meet the high safety standards that our customers, and we, demand and expect."