Grand jury accuses Pacific Gas and Electric of failing to do inspections that could have prevented deadly blast. In all, PG&E was indicted on 12 federal criminal counts related to the 2010 gas pipeline explosion that leveled a San Bruno, Calif., neighborhood, killed eight people and injured dozens of others. The indictment accuses PG&E of knowingly violating the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act between 2003 and 2010.  It says PG&E “knowingly and willfully” failed to maintain important pipeline records and ignored aging sections of natural gas pipe— one of which eventually exploded—over several years, despite federal requirements. The utility is also accused of relying on inaccurate and incomplete information to make important decisions about the pipeline’s operation. San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal

Duke Energy worked with North Carolina regulators to keep information secret about potential hazards. Emails between Duke and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources show that, after a request from a Duke engineer in May 2011, the department sought legal advice to keep dam emergency action plans away from public inspection. Emergency action plans, required for all dams with a high hazard potential, include maps that specify where water and other substances would travel if a dam failed. This would apply to more than 1,000 dams in the state, including dams in about 29 of Duke’s 33 coal ash ponds. Separately, Duke Energy is asking a judge to prevent citizens groups from taking part in any action that would make it clean its coal ash pits. The motion follows a coal ash spill at a Duke plant that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge. WRALThe Associated Press

UN scientists predict little increase in cancer due to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in 2011. While some children — fewer than 1,000 — might have received radiation doses that in theory could increase the risk of thyroid cancer, the probability of that developing also remains low, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation said in a new study. “No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected,” the scientists said. That is in contrast to the Chernobyl reactor explosion in 1986, which sent radioactive dust across much of Europe, while people close to the plant were exposed to radioactive iodine that contaminated milk. The UN scientists credited evacuations by Japanese authorities with reducing radiation exposure. Reuters

Study finds rising prevalence of HIV infections in South Africa. An estimated 12.2 percent of South Africa’s population was infected with the HIV virus in 2012, compared with 10.6 percent in 2008, according to a survey of 38,000 people by the country’s Human Sciences Research Council. The increase was partly due to the world’s biggest surge in new HIV cases, bringing the number of people infected in South Africa to 6.4 million. Young black African women were the hardest hit, with 23.2 percent of females ages 15 to 49 infected. Treatment of the virus is increasing, with around 2 million people on an expanded antiretroviral treatment plan. But the study found that knowledge of how HIV is transmitted and can be prevented fell, and risky sexual behavior increased. Reuters, Bloomberg

GM considering paying damages to victims of accidents in cars with defective ignition switches. To help decide, General Motors has hired Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who handled payouts in the Sept. 11, 2001, victims fund and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. That disclosure — in testimony by GM’s CEO, Mary T. Barra, before a House committee investigating the company’s failure to fix the faulty part — was the first time the automaker indicated it may pay damages in accident cases that occurred before its bankruptcy filing in 2009. GM’s restructuring in the bankruptcy case allowed it to shed previous legal liabilities. But Barra, without committing to paying damages, said, “GM has civic and legal responsibilities, and we are thinking through exactly what those responsibilities are.” The New York Times, Los Angeles Times

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein