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PG&E to pay $70 million in San Bruno pipeline explosion

March 12, 2012 | 11:51 am

PipelinePacific Gas & Electric Co. has agreed to pay $70 million in restitution to aid the city of San Bruno's recovery from a 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes in the Bay Area town.

In a joint statement released Monday, the company said the money will go to support the community's efforts to recover.

“The community of San Bruno has suffered through a terrible tragedy and we understand that this accident will affect this community forever," PG&E President Chris Johns said in a statement. "We committed the night of the tragedy and continue to commit that we will help the victims and the community heal and rebuild.”

PHOTOS: San Bruno fire

The settlement calls for PG&E to pay the city within 30 days, and the release said that the city will establish a separate “not-for-profit public purpose entity” to manage and distribute the funds.

On Sept. 9, 2010, a decades-old gas pipeline exploded under the suburb south of San Francisco and left a gaping crater in the street, whipping up an inferno that tore down everything in its path.

A month after the explosion, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that maintenance work at a pipeline control center triggered electrical problems and a rise in gas pressure just before the explosion. Facing scrutiny from federal regulators, former PG&E Chairman and Chief Executive Peter A. Darbee stepped down in April 2011.

Four months later, the NTSB issued a scathing report in which the agency blamed the gas company for "baffling" mistakes and lax oversight that led to the explosion.  NTSB officials said PG&E took almost 95 minutes to shut off the gas spewing from the pipeline in San Bruno.

In the statement, Johns called the settlement “another step” in the healing process.

“It is one that we hope will provide the community with the assurance that the resources will be there to rebuild the infrastructure that was damaged and provide for improvements where the community sees fit,” he said.  “We will continue to work with the victims and the community as a whole to address their needs.”


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-- Matt Stevens

Photo: A natural gas explosion tore through San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times