To cap a community service obligation stemming from the Crestmoor gas pipeline explosion, San Bruno officials are requesting $3 million from Pacific Gas and Electric to help combat wildfire risks.
Before a Superior Court judge in San Francisco, city officials asked the state utility to finance the effort to clean up brush, foliage and fire threats in Crestmoor Canyon.
The proposal comes in the wake of San Bruno officials finding that a majority of the 10,000 community service hours required for PG&E to perform following the 2010 blast occurred beyond the city’s borders.
To rectify the issue, city officials proposed Judge William Alsup bless a negotiated commitment that would allow the utility to satisfy the rest of its remaining community services with the payment.
During a hearing Tuesday, Oct. 8, Alsup instructed officials to return next month with a detailed plan for the fire mitigation efforts in the open space area spanning 76 acres considered a wildfire risk by state and local officials.
He also detailed an expectation that any of the payment should be spent to directly benefit residents and not on consultants or other regulatory approvals required for the project.
For his part, Mayor Rico Medina expressed his anticipation for the initiative advancing.
“I look forward to reviewing the detailed project plan and concur that any funds from PG&E should only be spent on clearing vegetation and creating defensible space in the canyon,” he said, in a prepared statement.
In advance of the meeting next month, officials will craft an action plan with specifics regarding scope of work, a schedule and the upfront investment required by San Bruno to begin the work, according to a press release.
The process will begin after city officials discovered in May that of the 5,225 community service hours performed by PG&E, 60% had occurred outside of the city borders, according to a city report. Furthermore, of the 2,057 hours performed in San Bruno, the report said all but 27 benefited the local school district.
Officials determined the contribution did not meet PG&E’s intended obligation, following the blast which destroyed a portion of the Crestmoor neighborhood, killed several residents and injured many more.
Following discussions with the utility, PG&E performed an additional number of more than 2,000 community service hours over the summer which officials felt more closely met the intent of the arrangement, according to a letter from City Attorney Marc Zafferano.
With about 2,600 community service hours left to be performed, city officials and PG&E representatives initiated discussions over potential projects which would exhaust the debt and offer direct benefits to residents — leading to identification of the Crestmoor Canyon fire mitigation project.
Officials first suggested PG&E employees could perform the work, but the utility typically contracts out such work — presenting legal hurdles for the execution. As a result, officials calculated the estimated cost of performing the work with an eye on PG&E financing the project, so long as the court approved of the proposal.
Considering the city’s budget limitations to afford the work on its own, as well as the potential for widespread benefit, Zafferano laid out his case for the court blessing the arrangement.
“The city’s residents were injured by PG&E’s conduct and those same residents would likewise benefit greatly from PG&E’s initiative to enhance public safety by supporting the fire mitigation project,” he said in the court document.
Following the feedback provided by Alsup, Medina said in the prepared statement he is optimistic the initiative will ultimately improve safety and the quality of life for the entire San Bruno community.
“The city’s goal has always been to protect its residents and this project will do that,” he said.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105