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Public distrust of PG&E's 'Culture of Safety' 

On a recent Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) levied a record $1.6 billion penalty on PG&E for the 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno. Since the explosion, PG&E has been issued many safety citations by the CPUC. Not surprisingly the commission plans to launch a formal investigation into the utility’s “culture of safety.”

There are steps that PG&E can take to persuade the commission and the public that it has a genuine culture of safety. Slick public relations ads aren’t among them. Consideration of safety recommendations of CPUC independent peer review panels, on the other hand, are. Last month, such a panel expressed concern regarding the adequacy of PG&E using only two earthquakes in estimating seismic safety at Diablo Canyon and made recommendations to improve the study. PG&E ignored these recommendations and refused follow-up meetings with the CPUC Panel, missing an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to an authentic culture of safety.

-- Milton Carrigan - San Luis Obispo

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