SoCalGas, a utility providing natural gas for home heating and other uses to nearly 22 million people across Southern and Central California with a checkered safety history in the state, is under scrutiny for a 2017 explosion caused by a gas leak, which affected a residential neighborhood in Ontario and caused “severe damages to nearby garages and injury to one person.”
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said they chose to fine SoCalGas the maximum penalty of $50,000 a day for each of three violations of state regulations, dating to Jan. 10, when the company was supposed to test its damaged pipeline section. The violations are ongoing as long as SoCalGas refuses to conduct that test, and the company could face additional fines up to a maximum of $8 million, commission staff said.
After initially agreeing to examine the pipeline, SoCalGas told commission staff last month that it was canceling the test until a lawsuit stemming from the explosion is resolved, CPUC said last Friday. CPUC said the gas company's decision to cancel the testing was "irresponsible to the public safety and unacceptable and that it places fear of civil damages ahead of public safety."
For its part, SoCalGas spokeswoman Christine Detz wrote in an email that the company is cooperating with the investigation: “We believe our actions following the 2017 incident were in compliance with applicable state and federal regulations. SoCalGas has taken appropriate steps to investigate the cause of the incident, completed comprehensive repairs to minimize the possibility of recurrence."