Five days ago, PG&E settled almost all remaining lawsuits with victims of the San Bruno Fire of 2010. 499 people will share $565 million after settlement discussions came to a close. “It’s a huge deal. The clients are getting what we felt is a very fair settlement for them under the circumstances,” reported plaintiff’s attorney George Corey who represented about 120 of the victims. “It took a long time for PG&E lawyers to get the company to stand up to the serious facts of this case. But they finally did, and it was fair.”
But what’s not fair is the way the City Of San Bruno is being made to wait for its turn to collect from the massive damage caused by the San Bruno Fire.
The San Bruno Fire, one of the worst pipeline disasters in U.S. history started after an explosion, happened when a 30-inch steel underground natural gas pipeline owned by PG&E ruptured in San Bruno and under a street in the Crestmoor neighborhood. Federal investigators later concluded the San Bruno Fire was reportedly caused by faulty welds in the pipe and created a fireball up to 1,000 feet high, blasting a crater 167 feet wide and measuring as a 1.1 richter scale earthquake.
The City of San Bruno this week joined consumer advocates in demanding that the Pacific Gas & Electric Company stop threatening ratepayers with a 4 percent rate increase and making other misleading statements in the utility’s last-ditch campaign to reduce its penalty and fine for the San Bruno Fire.
San Bruno filed a motion with the California Public Utilities Commission late Thursday joining the Division of Ratepayer Advocates and The Utility Reform Network in asking the CPUC’s Administrative Law Judges to strike PG&E’s latest claim that a proposed $2.25 billion penalty and fine would force the company to incur additional costs of $800 million, resulting in a rate increase of at least 4 percent for ratepayers.
Attorneys for the City argued that this assumption has been neither legally entered into the record nor verified by participating parties, amounting to little more than a “false narrative and a scare tactic as any penalties and fines will be borne by shareholders, not the ratepayers,” according to the city’s filing.
“Once again, PG&E is making false claims designed to mislead and manipulate public opinion, and we are calling on the CPUC to prevent these unsubstantiated fear tactics from influencing the outcome of this ongoing penalty process,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Any penalty and fine levied against PG&E would be the burden of shareholders, not ratepayers; this threat appears to be PG&E’s latest attempt to ultimately protect its bottom line from penalties stemming from decades of gross negligence that caused tragedy in our City.”
In August, San Bruno criticized misleading claims by PG&E CEO Tony Earley, who told Bloomberg news that the proposed penalty and fine could force the utility into bankruptcy – statements that contradicted the sworn legal testimony of PG&E’s own finance expert.