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While I was out of town Friday, my colleague Will Carless updated you on the federal court ruling against SDG&E. A jury found the utilities company guilty on three counts of violating asbestos work practice standards in clearing a lot in Lemon Grove, and on one count of making false statements.

(I wrote a story in March outlining the history of the site and its cleanup — you can read it here.)

In addition, Kyle Rhuebottom, a contractor hired to help with the asbestos removal, and SDG&E employee David “Willy” Williamson were found guilty of one count each of violating the work practice standards. Jacquelyn McHugh, the other SDG&E employee charged, was acquitted of the one count she’d been charged with.

Late Friday evening, SDG&E released a statement from Bret Lane, vice president of environmental, safety and facilities:

At the conclusion of the government’s case, the court dismissed the conspiracy count against all defendants because the evidence was insufficient to go to the jury.

We are very disappointed with the jury’s verdict on the remaining counts.

We will appeal the verdict based upon the lack of evidence and a number of rulings by the court that we believe resulted in prejudice to SDG&E and our employee, the defendants.

This was an unjust prosecution against our company and employees who were diligently doing their job and following the law.

Extensive air and soil testing by state, county and private experts never detected a single fiber of asbestos in the air or soil at the site, and demonstrated that public health was never at risk. Additionally, the California Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the site is safe for residential development.

We will continue to vigorously defend our company and we continue to stand firmly behind our employees who were involved in the project.

(Correction: The original post incorrectly identified Kyle Rhuebottom as an employee of SDG&E. He is actually an employee of a private contractor who contracted with SDG&E for the removal of the asbestos-containing pipe from the Lemon Grove site.)

KELLY BENNETT

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