The City of San Bruno has been assigned a March 27 court date to argue why the California Public Utilities Commission should be ordered to immediately turn over public records believed to show improper contact between senior management and judges, among other public records, related to the Sept. 9, 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline explosion in San Bruno.
Also, last week, attorneys for San Bruno filed a separate order asking that a Superior Court judge expedite the court’s review and–due to the urgent nature of this case and impending decision by the CPUC’s administrative law judges–quickly demand that the CPUC turn over records connected to the PG&E penalty and fine for the 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire that killed eight people, injured 66 and destroyed scores of homes.
San Bruno believes these records may demonstrate the ongoing “cozy relationships” between the CPUC and PG&E that federal investigators determined to be a leading cause of the explosion and fire.
The hearing in Superior Court is at 9:30 a.m. March 27 in room 203 of the San Francisco Superior Court, 400 McAllister St.
“This lawsuit calls for full transparency so that the people of San Bruno and the citizens of California can be confident about the integrity of this long penalty process against PG&E,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Due to the urgency and importance of this matter, we’ve asked that the court expedite the process so that the public can have full knowledge of conversations behind the scenes that may directly affect the outcome of the case to hold PG&E and its shareholders fully accountable for their gross negligence that caused tragedy in our community.”
San Bruno filed the original public records lawsuit in Superior Court on Feb. 4 after the CPUC refused to fulfill four separate public records requests dating back more than 10 months, in violation of the California Public Records Act.
At the center of San Bruno’s legal filing is an email correspondence from Executive Director Paul Clanon to the Administrative Law Judges that allegedly violates the CPUC’s own rules and is believed to demonstrate improper communication and influence between the CPUC’s senior management and the judges tasked with determining whether to levy a recommended $2.45 billion penalty and fine against PG&E.
The CPUC’s excuses for not producing the records have ranged from the deliberative process privilege to arguing that it was “very busy” and would respond when it had free time – a “response that makes a mockery of the value of public participation within its own government,” according to the suit filed on Feb. 4. Every public agency in California has an obligation to respond to requests for public records as a result of legislation that was adopted by the state more than 40 years ago.
San Bruno officials say these records are important because they may reveal the very problems that federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board identified as a cause of PG&E’s persistent and troubling inability to maintain accurate gas pipeline records, which continues to threaten the public’s safety by keeping the utility at risk for future pipeline failures.
“An open, honest and fully transparent process is the only way that we can ensure the safety of PG&E’s gas pipelines so that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere in California,” Ruane added.
San Bruno city officials have just launched an online petition drive that seeks the public’s participation in calling on the CPUC to hold PG&E and its shareholders accountable for the 2010 pipeline explosion. San Bruno’s petition – which already has more than 15,000 signatures – is available at: www.gaspipelinesafety.org.