PG&E Execs On Lavish Junket as San Bruno Exploded

by Randy Shaw on September 16, 2010

As a massive gas line explosion blew up homes and created a raging cauldron in San Bruno, Pacific Gas & Electric executives were enjoying a lavish dinner in San Luis Obispo after flying there in a company jet earlier that day. PG&E Chief Operating Officer Jack Keenan arranged for the company’s jet to fly execs from their San Francisco offices to San Luis Obispo, where they proceeded to play a round of golf. The off-site meeting included Geisha Williams, PG&E’s Senior Vice President in charge of energy delivery.

As the nation asks hard questions about PG&E’s funding priorities in the wake of the San Bruno pipeline explosion, the controversial corporation has a new question to answer.

Specifically, why did it spend the money to fly execs down for a golfing junket in San Luis Obispo when there was no shortage of Bay Area locations for off-site meetings?

The expensive junket follows PG&E’s spending $50 million in a failed effort to pass Prop 16 on California’s June ballot, which led many to question why these funds were not instead being spent to ensure public safety.

The Bay Citizen has reported that in a 2009 report outlining a proposal to replace the section of the pipeline at a cost of $5 million, PG&E officials wrote:

“If the replacement of this pipe does not occur, risks associated with this segment will not be reduced. Coupled with the consequences of failure of this section of pipeline, the likelihood of a failure makes the risk of a failure at this location unacceptably high.”

While the company junket to play golf and dine in San Luis Obispo did not cost $5 million, many will see the trip as reflecting PG&E’s misplaced spending priorities.

Randy Shaw’s Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century has just been released in paperback by the University of California Press.

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