Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Mayor Jim Ruane speaks at a press conference Wednesday about PG&E’s response to its indictment.
San Bruno condemned PG&E’s response to its criminal indictment brought against it in response to the Sept. 9, 2010, natural gas explosion.
Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Jim Ruane said he was pleased with the action by the U.S. attorney’s office to file criminal charges against Pacific Gas and Electric Company, but said he was angered the utility continues to call this an accident and deny direct responsibility for killing eight people and injuring scores of others.
“This is a very difficult situation for us because we’re living through this every day,” he said at a press conference Wednesday. “It’s disheartening they keep calling this an accident; it was not and it could have been prevented.”
The indictment, announced Tuesday, charges the utility with 12 felony violations of federal pipeline safety laws, which could carry a total possible fine of $6 million, or more if the court decides it somehow benefited financially from the disaster. Federal prosecutors allege that PG&E knowingly relied on erroneous and incomplete information when assessing the safety of the pipeline that eventually ruptured, sparked a fireball and leveled 38 homes in San Bruno.
In an official statement from PG&E, Chairman and CEO Tony Earley called the incident a “tragic accident.”
“We’ve taken accountability and are deeply sorry,” he said. “We have worked hard to do the right thing for victims, their families and the community and we will continue to do so. We want all of our customers and their families to know that nothing will distract us from our mission of transforming this 100-plus-year-old system into the safest and most reliable natural gas system in the country.”
The statement added PG&E believes that its employees did not intentionally violate the federal Pipeline Safety Act, and that even where mistakes were made, employees were acting in good faith to provide customers with safe, reliable and affordable energy. The company has committed to spend $2.7 billion of shareholder money to fund safety-related work, according to the statement.
Still, Ruane is not satisfied with the response.
“All we want is a safe utility moving forward,” he said. “Their smug attitude going forward has to change. … You have the expectation that when you go home and put dinner on the stove, it should be safe.”
He added that PG&E’s misconduct was criminal. The company deliberately misdirected money designated for pipeline safety to executive salaries and that is how this tragedy occurred, he said. The California Public Utilities Commission is also guilty for failing to regulate PG&E properly. Ruane said.
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