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
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.