PG&E Admits Liability for San Bruno Pipeline Blast

Utility accepts financial responsibility to compensate victims of the 2010 explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.


PG&E today admitted it is liable for the San Bruno fatal natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes on Sept. 9, 2010.

The utility is taking financial responsibility to compensate all of the victims for the injuries they suffered as a result of the accident. PG&E made the statement in response to a San Mateo County Superior Court judge's request for PG&E's official position and comes ahead of a court hearing Friday to discuss various issues regarding the case, a news release states.

“PG&E is hopeful that today’s announcement will allow the families affected by this terrible tragedy to receive compensation sooner, without unnecessary legal proceedings,” said PG&E President Chris Johns.

“We are affirming our commitment to do the right thing in our response to this accident.”

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane said Johns called him personally today saying "PG&E takes full responsibility."

"It substantiates something that we knew all along," Ruane told Patch Tuesday. "The city didn't have responsibility for this. The residents didn't have responsibility for this." [It confirms the preliminary NTSB report.]

"The residents have suffered terribly financially. We're going to rebuild this neighborhood [Crestmoor Canyon] and get it back to some semblance of normal life. It's long overdue."

Over the past 14 months, PG&E has been working with those impacted by the accident to resolve all claims. The company said it remains committed to helping the city of San Bruno and the victims of the accident and their families recover and rebuild.

In a note sent to PG&E employees today, Johns said, "I want to emphasize that this announcement was made not in reaction to any external pressure. As we’ve said all along, our pledge is to do the right thing in every area of our response to this tragedy ... PG&E is determined to learn everything we can from the accident and to use that information to change how we operate our gas business."

Today’s announcement also makes clear that none of the plaintiffs, San Bruno residents or the city itself is at fault. “We would never consider holding the residents accountable for this accident,” Johns added. “Since the accident, PG&E has stood by the community of San Bruno, and we will bear the cost to make things right for the city and its people.”

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said Tuesday night that city officials are pleased with PG&E's announcement.

"We hope this will pave the way for our resident victims to be made whole. We're concerned with our residents being able to move on with their lives. Hopefully this is a step in that direction."

San Bruno City Attorney Marc Zafferano agreed.

"The city fortunately did not get involved in any of the lawsuits [was neither sued nor sued anyone], so we're very pleased the statement absolves the city of any liability [as the NTSB report also found]. We hope it's a platform for rebuilding."

Read below for the full letter PG&E President Chris Johns sent to PG&E employees Tuesday:


Subject: Taking Accountability
PG&E Team:
Since the San Bruno accident, PG&E’s decisions, our culture and even our values have come under great scrutiny. In the past 14 months, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, both good and bad. We’ve been up-front about the shortcomings of our past gas operations, while at the same time working around the clock to improve that part of our company.
All along, our actions have been driven by one simple goal: to do the right thing. We have been sincere in that effort from the very first night.
As you may remember, PG&E received a flurry of media attention in July in response to a legal filing that was misinterpreted by some to mean that PG&E was leaving the door open to somehow blame San Bruno residents or the city of San Bruno for the accident itself. Nothing could be further from the truth, which we stated at the time. In a follow-up filing, we clarified our position by explicitly stating that none of the plaintiffs or residents of San Bruno was at fault for the accident.  PG&E has consistently stated our position that we would do what we could to assist the residents of San Bruno and help them recover from this tragic accident.
Today, PG&E took another important step in this effort by agreeing that we are liable for the San Bruno accident. As a result, we are taking on financial responsibility so that everyone injured in the accident will be able to recover all of their damages from PG&E. This further underscores that we would never consider holding the residents—or the city of San Bruno—accountable, and that we will bear the cost to make things right for the victims of this tragedy.
I want to emphasize that this announcement was made not in reaction to any external pressure. As we’ve said all along, our pledge is to do the right thing in every area of our response to this tragedy.  The judge presiding over these cases asked PG&E to provide our official position. The judge is hopeful that this will make the legal proceedings move faster and more efficiently. PG&E is hopeful that this will allow the people injured to receive compensation sooner without unnecessary legal proceedings.
PG&E is determined to learn everything we can from the accident and to use that information to change how we operate our gas business. As a result, we’ve reorganized our Gas Operations, completed a massive effort to validate through records or hydrotesting more than 150 miles of transmission pipeline, and validated the maximum allowable operating pressure on hundreds of additional miles of pipeline.
As we look to 2012 and beyond, we know our company will continue to be in the spotlight. Our efforts to turn around our gas business and resolve all of the outstanding legal claims are far from over. Our pledge to our customers and all of our stakeholders is that we will work to make PG&E’s gas operations the best in the industry—and that we will do so with integrity and accountability.

Jeffrey Shurtleff December 14, 2011 at 02:50 AM
I would like for all of us to demand of Jerry Hill and Jackie Speier that they represent us STRONGLY IN OPPOSING ANY RATE INCREASES to pay for PG&E's mandatory upgrades. They have paid out profits from our current rates, and it is their shareholders, NOT US, that should pay for their profits. NO RATE INCREASES. They are already a monopoly power company. Respecfully, js
Rebecca Lorenz December 14, 2011 at 04:18 AM
I've heard a lot of rumors and have questions. 1. Is it true that PG&E already had funds to fix the pipeline(s) years ago in San Bruno but decided not to fix the pipeline(s)? 2. Did PG&E instead use the money for San Bruno pipeline(s) for a different project or perhaps for raises? 3. Will PG&E raise our rates in order to raise money once again for the problems in San Bruno? 4. If so, then will we the people who pay PG&E pay twice for something that should have simply been in the PG&E budget in the first place (in other words being prepared by setting aside funds for repairs)? Is it not prudent to set aside funds for future projects whether you run a household or a city or a business?
Annette S December 14, 2011 at 06:04 AM
This is classic PGE legal rangle, admit fault and settle, this will not go to trial because if found "negligent" it opens up punitive damages, currently a human life- is maxed out in the courts around 2.5-3 Mill. ..PGE never goes to trial, always admit fault to speed up settlements, not just PR move- this is to settle for the cheapest dollar amounts, and avoid punitive damage claims
Annette S December 14, 2011 at 07:43 AM
as soon as liability is admitted trial is mute, they have admitted liability, no slimey facts will come out, no negligence admitted, settlement negotiations will be the only item on the court calendar. ...nothing will come out- just remember, settlement will be closure to the tragedy and time to move on with the lives and business of PGE. This is standard operating practice for PGE, they do it all the time w/any legal liability cases, avoid proof of negligence. Don't open the door for punitive damages now that might put a dent in their profits.
Bill Baker December 14, 2011 at 10:51 AM
Perhaps PG&E doesn't want this to go to trial where all of the real sleazy facts about this broken company, that should be replaced by energy co-ops, would be put on display for the public to see?
Annette S December 14, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Oh you got it Bill if the public knew what PGE get's away with on a day to day basis regarding quality assurance, safety, and employee safety they would be Occupying PGE headquarters in SF PGE has not been to actual trial in many many years, the deaths that occur and damages are always settled, they are self insured so they answer to no one, they have the PUC wrapped around their finger and in their pocket, high priced specialized lawyers that do this all day long, the cover up of negligence is their forte
Cory David December 14, 2011 at 04:10 PM
If you or I were found responsible in any way for an incident with even a fraction of the magnitude of this disaster, we would be criminally prosecuted. Seeing as corporations are now considered people, thanks to the United States Supreme Court, the "persons" in the guise of PG&E should expect the same treatment. Corporations note: Careful what you wish for! Criminal prosecutions anyone?
Jeffrey Shurtleff December 14, 2011 at 04:28 PM
PG&E Headquarters January 20, 2012 Join us here visit......... occupysf.org PG&E Headquarters 77 Beale Street San Francisco, California Maybe PG&E would also like to avoid further publicity about their liabilities, negligence, and IMPUNITY. Join us January 20....downtown all day


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