Assemblyman Jerry Hill and several San Bruno leaders showed up at the CPUC's meeting Thursday and again called on regulators to reverse their decision to suspend hearings on whether PG&E should be fined for the 2010 San Bruno fire.
Hill (D-San Mateo) said he was outraged that the California Public Utilities Commission filed a motion to put the proceedings on hold for a week, and he claimed that the motion was made so that PG&E could conduct negotiations behind closed doors at a time when key facts were just going to be revealed about PG&E's handling of the pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood.
"This week’s hearings were supposed to be the culmination of two years of investigations into PG&E’s responsibility for the San Bruno disaster," Hill said at the meeting. "We’ve waited two years for two crucial weeks of testimony. PG&E witnesses were scheduled to take the stand and be questioned under oath. The truth was supposed to come out."
Media reports say the fines levied against PG&E could range anywhere from $200 million to $2.2 billion.
San Bruno Vice Mayor Ken Ibarra, Crestmoor resident Kathy DeRenzi, and Rene Morales, the mother of one of the victims of the pipeline explosion, all expressed their disappointment with the CPUC as well.
DeRenzi said she didn't trust PG&E or the CPUC anymore. With the recent decision to suspend the hearings, she called on Gov. Jerry Brown to replace CPUC President Michael Peevey because "we need someone who can serve the public."
"After learning how lax the process was prior to the explosion and learning this week that the hearings were suspended," DeRenzi said, "it makes me sick."
Ibarra and Morales echoed those sentiments.
Morales, the mother of Jessica Morales, one of the eight people who died in the fire, said she can't do anything to bring back her daughter - but she said she was speaking out because she is trying to do everything in her power to make sure another San Bruno explosion doesn't happen again.
"By closing the doors to the hearings," Morales told the commissioners, "it opens the grave to my daughter and all the other eight victims that died that day."
Peevey seemed taken aback by the comments and said the notion that the CPUC is making a backroom deal is misleading.
He said the only thing that has been paused at the moment is PG&E testimony against the charges made by the CPUC's Consumer Protection and Safety Division, which filed the motion. But any decision made will be public, he promised.
"If the parties agree on the fines, the commissioners have to consider them in public and on the record," Peevey said. "No one will be shut out."
"Every voice will be heard," he added. "And justice might be done six months earlier than it would have been otherwise."
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