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PG&E Pledges $100 Million Fund for San Bruno, CA Blast Victims

Source: Mercury News

Posted on 15 Sep 2010

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PG&E pledged $100 million to help rebuild the city of San Bruno in northern California and the lives of hundreds of residents who lost everything in last week's deadly pipeline blast.

In announcing the $100 million PG&E fund, company President Chris Johns said families whose homes were destroyed or damaged will be given $50,000 this week to "help them meet those day-to-day needs, no strings attached." The fund will also help homeowners make their deductible payments on insurance, or help those who did not have enough coverage or no insurance at all, Johns said.

The fund, assembled from shareholders' dollars, will also be used to help the city rebuild parks, streets and sidewalks, Johns said. He said the company has given the city $3 million to help offset costs of responding to the large gas explosion and fire that destroyed 37 homes, killed four people and injured scores of others.

"I realize money can't return lives" or "replace memories," said Johns, who added that PG&E is committed to helping in the healing process.

The checks will not prevent residents from making further legal claims against the utility, Johns said.

While PG&E was offering assistance, the state agency that regulates the utility was delivering a letter with 11 requirements for PG&E to address. It gave PG&E less than two weeks to prepare a plan for a complete safety inspection of its entire network, including more detailed internal exams for evidence of corrosion, as well as aerial surveys of dead vegetation.

For the corrosion tests, workers stick probes that look like ski poles into the ground near the pipeline and send electrical currents between them. Any sign of interruption in the current indicates a flaw in the coating of the pipe.

The utility would not release the findings of two previous inspections it conducted along the stretch of the San Bruno pipeline in 2009 and in March of this year. "We can't provide the specifics of the results of our findings," said Williams, saying it was part of the investigation.

In a Monday news conference, PG&E officials confirmed that the exploded piece of pipeline was not inspected internally for corrosion during a November 2009 survey. Their reason: Bending caused by the steep landscape prevented workers from running a pipeline inspection gauge through the interior of the pipe. Instead it was subjected to the corrosion "ski pole" test.

PG&E officials also confirmed Monday that the pipeline did not have automatic shut-off valves to stop the flow of gas and had to be closed manually after Thursday's explosion, while flames surged 60 feet high.