Regulator to begin probe of PG&E corporate culture

An investigation into whether corporate culture and governance at PG&E is responsible for persistent safety problems at the gas and electric utility company was launched today in San Francisco.

The California Public Utilities Commission announced today it will hire an independent expert to assist in the investigation, which will not focus on any specific incident but instead look at the company’s overall policies, practices and accountability, CPUC officials said.

The consultant will be paid up to $2 million, which will be reimbursed by PG&E, according to the CPUC.

When the CPUC announced it was considering the investigation earlier this month, it pointed to several safety violations since the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010. The CPUC imposed a record $1.6 billion penalty for that incident in April.

But efforts to improve safety have lagged and accidents and safety issues continue to be a problem for PG&E, according to the CPUC.

Incidents since then include a gas explosion in an unoccupied house in Carmel-by-the-Sea on March 3, 2014. PG&E received a $10.85 million penalty for that explosion, which city officials said showed record-keeping problems similar to those that played a role in the San Bruno explosion.

“We need to get at the root of the problem and determine why PG&E keeps having safety related issues,” CPUC president Michael Picker said in a statement. “Performance is still uneven.”

PG&E spokesman Keith Stephens said the utility is looking forward to sharing the concrete actions for improved safety it has taken since the San Bruno explosion.

“We’ve made incredible progress toward our goal of becoming the safest and most reliable energy provider in America but we have more to do and we won’t rest until it’s done and done right,” Stephens said in a statement.

PG&E enumerated numerous safety improvements made in recent years, including decommissioning and replacing 800 miles of cast iron pipe, improving monitoring systems for detecting gas leaks and building a new gas operations control center.

In 2011, the company installed a new CEO who restructured the gas operations, hiring the “best natural gas experts in the country to run it,” Stephens said.

Picker himself was recently installed as president of the CPUC amid allegations of a too-close relationship between the commission and PG&E. A series of publicly released emails detailed PG&E officials seeking more lenient judges in rate hearings.

Previous president Michael Peevey resigned over the allegations.CarmelCPUCPG&Eprobe

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

Anti-eviction demonstrators rally outside San Francisco Superior Court. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Report: Unpaid rent due to COVID-19 could be up to $32.7M per month

A new city report that attempts to quantify how much rent has… Continue reading

Music venues around The City have largely been unable to reopen due to ongoing pandemic health orders. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to cut $2.5M in fees to help 300 nightlife venues

San Francisco will cut $2.5 million in fees for hundreds of entertainment… Continue reading

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett departs the U.S. Capitol on October 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump nominated Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after Ginsburg’s death. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
GOP senators confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court in partisan vote

By Jennifer Haberkorn Los Angeles Times The Senate on Monday confirmed Judge… Continue reading

Curator Tim Burgard looks over a section of the galleries comprising “The de Young Open,” a huge, varied collection of work by Bay Area artists. (Photo courtesy Gary Sexton/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)
Bay Area artists jam-pack vivid ‘de Young Open’

Huge exhibition — with works for sale — showcases diversity, supports community

SF Board of Education vice president Gabriela Lopez and commissioner Alison Collins listen at a news conference condemning recent racist and social media attacks targeted at them and the two student representatives on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Online attacks on school board members denounced by city officials

City officials on Monday condemned the targeting of school board members, both… Continue reading

Most Read