San Diego Gas and Electric Guilty of Asbestos Violations

In federal court on July 13th, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) was found guilty of violating safety standards while removing asbestos from property it once owned in the community of Lemon Grove.

According to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, a jury found the utility company guilty of four criminal counts three counts of improperly removing asbestos and one count of making false statements. A fifth count of conspiracy to violate safety standards was dropped before the trial began last Wednesday.

In addition, three SDG&E employees faced charges for allegedly violating safety standards. The article reports that Jacquelyn McHugh, a supervisor in SDG&E’s environmental department, was acquitted of the one count against her. David Williamson, an SDG&E environmental specialist, and Kyle Rhuebottom, the project superintendent for contractor IT Corp., were acquitted of some charges and convicted of others. The jury could not decide whether Williamson falsely identified himself as a certified environmental consultant.

SDG&E could be facing fines up to $2 million. The employees will face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge for which there is a conviction. Post trial motions are set for September 6th.

The trial concerned the removal of nine miles of pipe at the Encanto Gas Holder Facility, a 16-acre site near the Lemon Grove-San Diego boundary. Charges state that SDG&E cut corners by using a cheaper machine to scrape chunks of coating containing asbestos off the pipes, causing friable asbestos to crumble and fibers to be released into the air.

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