SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A former Pacific Gas & Electric company employee experienced resistance when she tried in the wake of a deadly explosion at a gas line to improve the company’s shoddy record-keeping, federal prosecutors said in a court filing in their criminal case against PG&E.
Investigators have blamed the 2010 blast in part on poor record-keeping at PG&E that they say was based on incomplete and inaccurate pipeline information.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a court filing Monday that Leslie McNiece, a former PG&E employee, would testify that another PG&E employee asked her to destroy documents. Prosecutors did not say what those documents contained.
McNiece would also testify that she found other documents in a trash bin, according to the court filing. Those documents show PG&E was aware that its records lacked information about a previous leak on the gas line that exploded, prosecutors said.
“The pushback McNiece faced hindered her ability to address PG&E’s deficient records, and therefore is inextricably intertwined, direct evidence of PG&E’s knowledge of its recordkeeping deficiencies,” prosecutors said.
PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said in a statement the company unequivocally disagreed with the “claims and mischaracterizations contained in the government’s filing.”
“We look forward to the opportunity to shed light on the facts in court,” he said.
Prosecutors have charged PG&E with 27 felony counts of pipeline safety code violations and one felony count of obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors say PG&E tried to mislead federal investigators about pipeline testing and maintenance procedures it was following at the time of the explosion in the city of San Bruno. The blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
Prosecutors also say the utility was operating under a company policy that did not meet federal safety standards, failing to prioritize as high-risk and properly assess many of its oldest natural gas pipelines.
PG&E has pleaded not guilty. The case is set to go to trial in March.
Information about McNiece was included in a government filing seeking a judge’s approval to admit her testimony as evidence. The government also proposed showing jurors the pipe that exploded by bringing it to a street near the courthouse on a flatbed truck.
The judge is scheduled to hear arguments about the government’s filing on Feb. 22.