PG&E reaches $65 million settlement in record-falsification case

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has agreed to pay $65 million and implement a series of system reforms to settle an investigation from California regulatorswho said the company repeatedly falsified internal records about its underground infrastructure.

The penalty will come at the expense of PG&E shareholders, not customers, according to a document published Thursday by the California Public Utilities Commission, whose staff conducted the inquiry into the company’s record-keeping practices.

PG&E reached the proposed settlement, which it disclosed in a filing and a note to employees it posted online, with commission safety staff and a coalition of California utility employees. The commissioners who oversee the regulatory agency must still sign off on the deal.

Commission staff concluded that PG&E employees frequently misrepresented how quickly they responded to excavators’ requests to locate and mark the company’s gas pipelines and did not provide enough qualified workers to help flag underground electric lines.

No one died as a result of the record-keeping problems, but the commission uncovered 67 cases where the issues contributed to a “dig in,” which is when a crew strikes an underground line while excavating. Commission staff believe “the threat of physical and economic harm associated with each of the violations makes them severe,” according to the settlement document.