A year and a half after a natural gas explosion in San Bruno killed eight people, indignant officials in the devastated city on Wednesday accused PG&E of delaying efforts to resolve the city's financial claims against the utility.
"We are very frustrated that PG&E doesn't understand its negligence was responsible for the biggest natural gas disaster in our nation's history," San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane said at a hastily called news conference. "We will not let that happen."
Commenting directly to the company, he asked, "why can't you take care of us?"
But PG&E officials -- who said they met with San Bruno officials as recently as Tuesday -- denied talks have stalled with the city over compensation
following the Sept. 9, 2010, blast, which killed eight people, injured dozens of others and destroyed or damaged 108 homes.
The city's demands, which are separate from the dozens of lawsuits filed by individuals seeking financial damages, are part of a growing litany of expenses that PG&E faces in the wake of the explosion. The total cost will depend on the outcome of the suits, whatever regulatory fines are levied against the company and the extent of pipeline repairs PG&E makes. But some analysts have estimated that PG&E's San Bruno-related bills could reach several billion dollars, though it's unclear how much of that might be borne by its customers.
The ruckus Wednesday also highlights the uncertainty over how long it will take to satisfy the claims of the various victims.
Shortly after the explosion, Johns vowed to "do what's right to help rebuild the community" and PG&E established a $70 million trust fund to fix city property destroyed in the disaster as well as a separate $100 million fund to help residents affected by the blast. But in December last year, San Bruno officials formally began negotiating for additional money to possibly create a scholarship fund for children in the blast-ravaged neighborhood, build a memorial, set up youth sports leagues or establish mental health resources for city workers, Ruane said. The dispute with PG&E centers on those recent demands.
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