Details hazy on funding of panel looking into blast

It’s not clear whether money to pay for the investigations into the cause of the San Bruno fire will come from PG&E’s ratepayers or from its profits.

The California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that is supposed to oversee PG&E’s infrastructure, met Thursday and created a committee to do its own investigation into the fire — separate from the investigation already begun by the federal National Transportation Safety Board.

The investigation will be paid for by PG&E, but the CPUC did not dictate whether that money should come from ratepayers or its shareholders.

Commission board members “encouraged” PG&E to pay for the investigation out of its profits, but stopped short of ordering it to do so.

PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said the company is “prepared to fund the investigation with shareholder funds.”

“We’re waiting for [the CPUC] to give us direction, and we’ll comply with their direction,” he said.

But when pressed about whether PG&E would pay for the investigation out of its own profits if merely “encouraged” to do so, Boyles would not specify.

“We’re going to wait and see what happens,” he said.

Details about what the investigation team would comprise were not clear. In the resolution passed by the CPUC 4-0 Thursday morning, the panel was ordered to be established within 60 days. The resolution creates an “independent review panel of experts” to gather facts and recommend ways to make the natural-gas transmission system safer.

Seven people were killed in the explosion and subsequent fire Sept. 9 that destroyed an entire neighborhood.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

 

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