Pacific Gas & Electric Corp ordered to admit guilt for safety violations through ads in papers, TV

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp (PG&E) had been ordered to take out television and newspaper advertisements announcing that the company was found guilty of violating safety standards in the wake of a 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people.
 
A San Francisco federal judge yesterday also directed ''high-level personnel'' at the utility to undertake 2,000 hours of community service and sentenced the company to a maximum-allowed fine of $3 million, saying the its crimes were ''very serious and pose great risk to the public safety.''

During a trial last year, prosecutors rejected a proposal to seek a penalty of as much as $562 million.

In an unusual punishment for a corporate crime, the company would be required to place full-page ads in the San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journalexplaining its offenses and what it would do to prevent future wrongdoing.

Additionally, it would spend almost $3 million to advertise on TV, which the company said amounted to about 12,500 60-second spots.

US district judge Thelton Henderson said, in addition to the community service requirement for high-level employees, which he said would be monitored by a probation officer, the company as a whole would be required to perform another 8,000 hours of service.

The company had agreed to acknowledge its guilt in newspaper and television advertisements, which would begin within 60 days, Henderson said at the sentencing hearing.

PG&E also accepted the requirement that its employees perform 10,000 hours of community service, including at least 2,000 hours by high-level officials.

''I strongly recommend that this service be in the town of San Bruno to the extent possible,'' Henderson said.

A jury in San Francisco found PG&E guilty in August of failing to properly inspect and repair its aging pipelines, like the one that blew up in San Bruno in September 2010, killing eight people, injuring 58 and destroying 38 homes.