For release on November 20, 2019
Supervising Deputy District Attorney
Environmental Protection and
Workplace Safety Unit
Bay Area Company Ordered to Pay $100,000 in Civil Settlement Over Repeatedly Rupturing Gas Lines
A Livermore-based company that ruptured gas lines 15 times during construction projects over the past five years has been ordered today by a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and costs.
In one case, a backhoe operator with MCH Electric struck a natural gas pipeline along the sidewalk of Montague Expressway during morning rush hour, causing a one-hour gas release and the major road’s shutdown.
It is one of the first prosecutions in the state involving the Dig Safe Act.
“Trenching near underground utility lines is dangerous,” Supervising Deputy District Attorney Bud Porter said. “We believe that the majority of these incidents are preventable.”
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office began investigating MCH after the Milpitas Police Department reported a string of problems at MCH construction sites in early 2017.
The investigation was joined by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, which uncovered additional violations by MCH Electric in its jurisdiction, including Pleasanton and Dublin. The allegations in the lawsuit included: the failure to call 911 immediately after causing a gas release; the failure to call 811 to ask for re-marks of utility lines; and the use of backhoe equipment closer to gas and electrical lines than the law allows. No one was injured in the incidents.
The Dig Safe Act was enacted in 2016 and strengthened existing legal requirements for excavation safety. Pacific Gas & Electric, whose natural gas pipelines are often damaged by excavators, assisted the District Attorney’s offices by providing information about the incidents on MCH Electric projects.