Action, reaction

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously declared that a series of actions by PG&E—one of the largest gas company businesses in the country—caused last year’s San Bruno gas explosion that killed eight people and leveled an entire Bay Area neighborhood.

Substandard welds were at fault and an inadequate inspection program for gas pipelines allowed those and other problems to go unnoticed. (Remember, in the year leading up to the San Bruno tragedy, PG&E was busy devoting its time and resources, $48 million, to a mendacious and failed initiative campaign, Proposition 16.)

The NTSB ruling came just a month after news hit that PG&E shareholders had netted unexpectedly sizeable profits, an 8.7 percent increase, despite the San Bruno tragedy, in the second quarter of 2011. And the ruling came just a few days after a news report that PG&E would be making its customers pay $769 million of the $2.2 billion it will take to upgrade the company’s natural gas pipelines as a result of San Bruno.

What’s wrong with this picture?

We’re happy the NTSB has named PG&E responsible for what happened in San Bruno. But we think sticking ratepayers with that much of the bill for system-wide upgrades is outrageous, especially at a time when profits are flowing. It’s PG&E’s shareholders and executives who should pick up the lion’s share of the tab on this one.