San Bruno Says PG&E Coming Back to Table Due to Bad Publicity; PG&E Says Not Really

Update 1:25 p.m. The city of San Bruno and PG&E today seemed to be at loggerheads — an extreme euphemism, perhaps — when the city announced that PG&E had walked away from negotiations on compensating San Bruno for the 2010 pipeline disaster.

A section of the failed San Bruno pipeline (Photo: NTSB)

But at a press conference, which was originally scheduled to discuss the breakdown of talks, Mayor Jim Ruane said that soon after San Bruno’s announcement, PG&E agreed to come back to the table. He also said he thought the city publicizing the collapse of negotiations had something to do with that.

As to how far apart the two parties were in negotiations, Ruane said that PG&E had been offering the bare minimum set by law, agreeing only to reimburse the city direct costs related to the accident. He said, “PG&E is dodging its commitment to make the city whole.”

Ruane also announced that San Bruno has filed a petition with the CPUC to become part of any settlement that the regulatory agency reaches with PG&E over San Bruno.

So…PG&E then held a conference call, conducted by its SVP for Corporate Affairs. Here’s what he said:

  • As to what the differences may be between San Bruno and PG&E in terms of negotiations: “We have a confidentiality agreement with the city, so I can’t be specific… It’s about providing money above and beyond” the $100 million Rebuild San Bruno fund, which is meant to reimburse affected residents, and a $70 million pot from which the city can make requests for reimbursement. Pruitt said the city wanted more money for “capital improvement projects,” or “some other type of activities the city feels would be necessary for recovery and would prove beneficial to its residents.”
  • As to Ruane’s claim that PG&E is coming back to the table only because San Bruno publicized the dispute: “We’re available any time the city wants to meet with us, almost 24 hours, 7 days a week…We were scheduled to give them a call today to suggest that we would meet with them on Friday. The two events were not connected.”
  • On San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane’s worry that PG&E’s gas operations might go belly up, affecting PG&E’s ability to pay San Bruno compensation, he said, “our operations are solid. PG&E is a solvent enterprise. Chances of bankruptcy are non-existent. I have heard that the city was concerned about that…they have been assured that is not the situation.”

Here is a PG&E fact sheet (pdf) that the company says outlines the amount of reimbursement provided to date.

By the way, the spokesman for San Bruno is local “crisis management” hotshot Sam Singer.

Update 8:11 p.m. Kelly Wilkinson talked to Chronicle reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken about today’s developments. He thinks the dispute is related to PG&E’s failure to provide a “firm time commitment on a particular set of offers.”

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Update 11 a.m.: Tweeted by Doug Sovern or KCBS:

 

Update 11:50 a.m. KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler was at today’s press conference by San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane, which was originally scheduled so he could talk about PG&E walking away from settlement talks over the 2010 pipeline disaster. But Ruane said that the utility, a few hours ago, had agreed to come back to the table, with new talks set for Friday.

Ruane said he thought the public statement about the collapse of negotiations was what prompted PG&E’s change of heart.

He also said that PG&E had only been offering the bare minimum set by law, agreeing to reimburse the city direct costs related to the accident.

“PG&E is dodging its commitment to make the city whole,” he said.

Ruane also said the city had filed a petition with the CPUC to become part of any settlement that regulatory agency reached with PG&E.

PG&E is holding a conference call at 12:30 p.m. to discuss the negotiations.

Original post

(AP) SAN FRANCISCO — The city of San Bruno said Wednesday that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has broken off settlement talks with the city about a compensation fund for a deadly gas pipeline explosion. The city has scheduled an 11 a.m. press conference on the breakdown of talks.

A section of the failed San Bruno pipeline (Photo: NTSB)

Officials in the Northern California city want the utility to make good on its promise to pay restitution for the September 2010 blast that killed eight people, destroyed 38 homes and laid waste to a neighborhood overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

City spokesman Sam Singer said San Bruno officials have been negotiating a settlement with PG&E officials, including President Chris Johns, since last fall. But Singer said the utility abruptly walked away from the negotiating table last week.

“PG&E owes it to this community to pay restitution so it can build a library, a park, a memorial, and do something new to rebuild the spirit of this city that was devastated by this blast,” Singer said. “PG&E has walked away from the table, and we want them to negotiate in good faith.”

PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord declined to comment Wednesday.

Any settlement would be in addition to a trust fund PG&E created to pay up to $70 million to help the city cover the cost of rebuilding.

Federal accident investigators lay the blame squarely on Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for the explosion.

Escaping gas fed a pillar of flame 300 feet tall for more than 90 minutes before workers were able to manually close valves that cut off gas to the ruptured pipeline.

Dozens of people were injured and more than 100 homes destroyed or damaged.

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