Thursday, April 9, 2015, San Francisco–TURN said today that while nothing will undo the sorrow and devastation caused by PG&E’s fatal San Bruno explosion, today’s decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to hold PG&E accountable for pipeline neglect with $1.6 in penalties would go a long way toward making sure pipelines are not neglected in the future. The bulk of the money will go toward overdue pipeline maintenance and improvements.
The proposal authored by President Picker and approved today is huge improvement over previous proposals, and adopts many of TURN’s recommendations for consumer protections and shareholder responsibility.
“This consumer victory took four years of determined advocacy by TURN, the Cities of San Bruno and San Francisco, and the Commission’s advocacy divisions,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. TURN had urged the Commission not only to penalize PG&E $1.7 billion but also to apply much of that money to pipeline safety. The decision approved today mirrors TURN ‘s, refunding $400 million in pipeline maintenance cost s to customers in a manner that is fair to residential customers and will lower February winter bills. Shareholders must also pay an additional $850 million in pipeline safety improvements.
Toney said that PG&E must pay the penalties out of profits, not rates. “The CPUC has put the responsibility for pipelines squarely where it belongs, on PG&E’s shareholders. These penalties send a strong message to PG&E that the neglect and mismanagement that led to the San Bruno explosion must never happen again,” he said. “Customers are looking to the CPUC to rein in PG&E and be a watchdog, rather than a lapdog. Requiring PG&E to pay the costs of its previous pipeline neglect is a good place to start.”