State PUC Failures with PG&E in San Bruno Spur Reform Legislation

February 09, 2017

Mercury News
By George Avalos

SAN BRUNO — The state Public Utilities Commission’s failures to prevent disasters by PG&E and other big utilities, including a fatal explosion in San Bruno and gas leaks near Los Angeles, have spurred fresh efforts to force the agency to make safety a top priority.

The efforts, in the form of new proposed legislation, would oblige the PUC to make safety a top priority. State Sen. Jerry Hill, whose Peninsula district includes San Bruno, introduced the bill on Thursday.

“If you talk with the PUC, they will tell you that they are doing a lot, but their actions don’t really indicate that,” Sen. Hill said Thursday in an interview. “Safety has not become the priority at the PUC that we and customers think it should be.”

PUC officials didn’t respond to multiple email and phone requests for a comment about the senator’s bill, SB 273, or the agency’s flaws that were outlined by critics.

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Professors Karlene Roberts and Paul Schulman found fault with the PUC’s safety culture in a February 2016 report.

“One striking finding we discovered in our interviews is that there doesn’t seem to be a clear conception or definition of safety shared throughout the PUC,” said the report submitted by Roberts, who is the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, and Schulman.