Peninsula elected leaders welcome new leadership at PG&E 

click to enlarge Mayor Jim Ruane, left, alongside PG&E President Christopher Johns, second from right, speaks during a CPUC hearing following the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion. - SUSAN WALSH/AP PHOTO
  • Susan Walsh/AP Photo
  • Mayor Jim Ruane, left, alongside PG&E President Christopher Johns, second from right, speaks during a CPUC hearing following the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

Local elected officials on Wednesday called the impending retirement of PG&E's top dog a welcome change.

Christopher Johns has been president of PG&E since August 2009, leading the utility giant through the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010. He will retire at the end of the year, PG&E announced Tuesday.

"I think it's a good time for him to go," said state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who has long championed for stricter pipeline safety enforcement. "It's important that PG&E make this change. I think they should have made it a few years ago."

Hill said he has spoken with Johns just once in the five years following the San Bruno explosion, which killed eight residents and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno's Crestmoor neighborhood. But Hill is confident that bringing in new leadership is a "necessary and healthy" step to change the culture of the company.

"It's long overdue," Hill added.

Following the explosion, PG&E was fined $1.6 billion by the California Public Utilities Commission. It also faces a criminal investigation.

The company has settled claims of more than $500 million with victims of the explosion, established a $50 million trust for costs related to recovery in San Bruno, and contributed $70 million to support the city's overall recovery efforts.

PG&E officials praised Johns and said the company's board of directors will likely discuss a successor prior to his retirement.

"We thank Chris for his exemplary commitment and service. He has been a tireless supporter for our people as they work together in communities throughout northern and central California to deliver outstanding operational performance that, in 2014, included record electric reliability, international recognition for gas safety performance and the highest customer service ratings since 2009," Tony Earley, PG&E CEO and board chairman, said in a statement.

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane also commended Johns for helping to negotiate restitution for the city following the explosion. Ruane added that he has not spoken with Johns in at least 18 months, around the time that allegations of potential corruption and collusion surfaced.

"He always treated us with respect in the beginning," Ruane said. "I wish him well."

Meanwhile, PG&E last week announced it has completed 10 of the 12 safety recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in response to the explosion.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Bio:
Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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