The state attorney general does not think the penalty is stiff enough to change PG&E's mindset when it comes to public safety, but staff members from the California Public Utilities Commission support the plan and they have until noon Wednesday to tell a judge the reasons why.
An administrative law judge and two members of the state Public Utilities Commission listened to testimony and examined a proposal to fine PG&E for missing pipeline documents, records they were ordered to submit as a result of the San Bruno explosion.
"Prior to 1970 and prior to 1960, there were no records kept on those pipelines specific to the level we're being asked to today," said engineer Kirk Johnson.
Last week, there had been talk of fining the utility $1 million a day, but PG&E suggested and CPUC staff agreed to a $3 million penalty up front and another $3 million if they fail to meet new deadlines.
"I am calling that a backroom deal, when you have PG&E, PUC, sitting in a room without transparency, without public comment," said Assemblyman Jerry Hill, whose district includes San Bruno.
The head of one consumer group questions why safety improvements should be postponed during a record search and hopes fines will speed up the process.
"This commission has rarely fined PG&E for numerous violations over the past decade of pipeline safety and so, it's really high time the commission start doing its job," said Marcel Hawiger with The Utility Reform Network.
The state attorney general's office and the San Francisco city attorney question if the proposed fine is harsh enough given PG&;ampE's multi-billion dollar revenues. One PUC commissioner says it is not a done deal.
"We have not made any judgments yet about what the fines are going to be," said Commissioner Catherine Sandoval.
Under the proposed agreement, PG&E now has several months to come up with more pipeline documents.
"92 percent of our records have been turned in to the commission," said PG&E Spokesman Joe Molica.
Opponents of the proposed agreement known as a "stipulation plan" have until noon on April 8 to turn in their comments. The administrative law judge will then take the case under review.