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Jerry Hill

Prosecutors criticized over lower potential fine after blast

The surprising decision by federal prosecutors in San Francisco to drop pursuit of a potential $562 million fine against one of the nation's largest utilities after a deadly pipeline blast marked the second time in recent months that the office has backed down in a high-profile criminal case against a major corporation.

The move Tuesday involving Pacific Gas & Electric Co. came weeks after the U.S. attorney's office abruptly abandoned drug trafficking allegations against shipping giant FedEx.

The decisions were made after trials had started and raised questions about why the office would spend years building cases only to change course at the eleventh hour.

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