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PG&E Denies It Blamed Victims for Pipeline Explosion in Court Filing

The utility Tuesday disputed reports that its recent court filing implied victims of the Sept. 9 blast may have been responsible for injuries or losses suffered in the explosion.

Responding to media reports that PG&E tried in a recent court filing to blame some of the losses from the Sept. 9 fire on the victims, the utility today denied that claim and said the filing was merely a legal response to a "very broad" lawsuit.

More than 250 residents of the Crestmoor neighborhood have sued the utility for the deadly blast that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes last fall. 

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported Monday that the utility's filing last week seemed to imply a near the line that exploded was partly to blame for the disaster and, therefore, the residents shouldn't be entitled to any payouts.

But Pacific Gas & Electric Co. fired back Tuesday, saying the July 5 filing wasn't claiming any of the fire victims were at fault. Rather, PG&E said, it was a legal response submitted as part of the that includes 86 lawsuits and accuses the utility of a variety of charges.

"We want it to be crystal clear that no one at PG&E would suggest that the plaintiffs or residents of San Bruno impacted by this accident are somehow at fault for the tragedy," the statement said.  

PG&E also said the following in response to Monday's media reports about the filing:

We also want it to be equally clear that, contrary to news reports, residents who received financial assistance from PG&E after the accident will not be asked to repay those funds or to forego the right to pursue legal claims for damages. We gave our word at the time that this assistance came with no strings attached. We stand by that pledge.

To assure our intent is clear, today we submitted an amendment to our earlier filing that explicitly states that none of the plaintiffs or residents of San Bruno are at fault. 

PG&E remains committed to promptly paying claims and rebuilding San Bruno. The San Mateo County Superior Court has assured the parties that resolution of these cases is its top priority and PG&E supports that goal. 

Some news articles also inaccurately reported that language in the filing was intended to implicate the city of San Bruno’s sewer replacement project in the cause of the accident. The language in the filing did not name the city of San Bruno or any third party. The National Transportation Safety Board has not determined the cause of the San Bruno accident, and has said it will release its report before the end of the year. PG&E continues to work with the NTSB and California’s Public Utilities Commission on their investigations.

Despite PG&E's explanation of its filing, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, blasted the utility's approach, saying PG&E was trying to play both sides by "expressing public remorse but playing hardball" in court.

In June, in newspapers throughout Northern California apologizing for the tragic pipeline explosion. However, Hill said PG&E's actions have continually compromised the public's trust in the utility.

"PG&E officials need to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths and treat the victims of this tragedy with the respect they deserve," Hill said in a statement.

Tami Hunter July 17, 2011 at 02:43 AM
Has anyone called Erin Brockovich?!!

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