PG&E announced Thursday that CEO and President Peter A. Darbee will retire at the end of April, seven months after one of the utility’s natural gas pipelines exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people.
Long-time board member Lee Cox will take over his duties until the board can appoint someone else. Cox is the retired president and CEO of AirTouch Cellular. He has been a member of PG&E’s board since 1996.
Darbee will receive $35 million in stock and pension. He will not receive any additional severance money because he is retiring, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission statement. Also according to the statement Cox could make $150,000 a month until an interim CEO is appointed.
“We have got to regain the confidence that in some case has been lost with customers, regulators, and others,” said PG&E spokesman Brian Hertzog. “New leadership has the best opportunity to address the challenge.”
There have been increasing calls for resignations at the top levels of PG&E by the National Transportation Board after an investigation revealed sloppy record keeping and patchy inspection practices.
“We think that it is about time that Peter Darbee resigned from PG&E because his leadership in the past couple of years has really been a disaster,” said Mark Toney, director of the consumer advocacy group TURN.
Along with the natural gas explosion, the company has come under fire recently for their controversiall SmartMeters, and ballot initiative that would have made it difficult for municipalities to create their own utilities.
The California Public Utilities Commission’s President, Michael R. Peevey, also commented on the resignation. The commission oversees PG&E.
“The CPUC today learned of the resignation of Mr. Darbee from PG&E Corp. While obviously the company under his leadership has been responsible for several poor and consequential decisions, Mr. Darbee’s commitment to PG&E and its constituents is unquestioned.
As PG&E’s Board of Directors recruits a successor, the CPUC urges the company to return to its roots by hiring the most technically competent person; someone with a long-standing history of performance in the energy industry.”
Darbee joined PG&E Corp. 1999 as chief financial officer, was appointed CEO in 2005, and became chairman in 2006.
The company’s utility unit, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, will continue to be led by President Christopher P. Johns.