Survivors of San Bruno explosion address regulators

April 5, 2011 11:47:28 PM PDT
There was a packed house Tuesday night in San Bruno, with people telling PG&E exactly what they believe needs to be done to prevent the another disaster like last fall's pipeline blast.

Members of the California Public Utilities Commission heard directly from people who were devastated by the San Bruno blast. People like Chris Torres, whose mother was killed and relatives were severely injured.

"My brother and sisters were burned outside of the house," said Torres. "It was over 600 to 800 degrees outside. So all of the hair and flesh on their bodies burned off. So I want something to be done."

Seven months after the explosion that leveled a neighborhood, there were calls for better inspections and testing of pipelines, better maps that tell fire departments where gas lines are, and more emergency response training. Residents demanded PG&E spend more money on safety systems like automatic shutoff valves instead of corporate perks.

"Allowing executives to bonus themselves seven times their salary or more in a year when they blew up a neighborhood and killed eight people is ludicrous," said resident Bill Magoolahan.

There was also criticism aimed at the watchdogs, with claims that the CPUC is too cozy with the utility company when it comes to making sure PG&E spends money on safety upgrades.

"But I have concerns that despite these public olive branches, the CPUC is still negotiating deals with utilities in private away from public scrutiny," said Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

"We've only begun to scratch the surface of the kinds of accountability that PG&E will be held to," said CPUC executive director Paul Clanon.

PG&E spokesman Joe Molica was there to respond to the public criticism.

"This proposed settlement with the commission commits us to a very, very aggressive timeline," said Molica. "Money is not the primary focus here. What our focus is, is enhancing the safety of this system."

There will be similar meetings next month in Santa Rosa and Los Angeles. New safety regulations could be put into place over the course of the next year.

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