Southern California Gas was hit Friday with a $3.3 million fine by state regulators who accused the company of failing to properly and timely investigate a January 2017 explosion in Ontario that injured on person.

In doing so, regulators charged the company chose to protect itself from lawsuits rather than put public safety first.

The California Public Utility Commission said the move by the downtown Los Angeles-headquartered unit of San Diego-based Sempra Energy was “irresponsible to the public safety and unacceptable” and “places fear of civil damages ahead of public safety.”

SoCal Gas agreed to test a damaged portion of the pipeline by Jan. 10, 2019, but shortly before the deadline told regulators it would not do so until a lawsuit stemming from the explosion was resolved, according to the commission’s citation.

“We believe our actions following the 2017 incident were in compliance with applicable state and federal regulations,” Chris Gilbride, SoCalGas spokesperson said in a statement. “SoCalGas has taken appropriate steps to investigate the cause of the incident, completed comprehensive repairs to minimize the possibility of recurrence, and has cooperated with the CPUC throughout the investigation.”

SoCal has 30 days to appeal the decision, it has not said whether it will do so.

SoCalGas is the nation’s largest provider of natural gas and with nearly 22 million customers across 24,000 square miles of Central and Southern California.

Manufacturing, retail and trade reporter Rachel Uranga can be reached at ruranga@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225 ext. 251. Follow her on Twitter @racheluranga

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