PG&E Corp. (PCG:US) may reach a settlement with regulators within the next two or three months on three California investigations into a deadly 2010 pipeline explosion, Chief Executive Officer Anthony Earley said.
Earley said the “time might be right” to negotiate a deal and he was eager to have it in place by the second anniversary of the tragedy in a San Francisco suburb.
“By the second anniversary, on Sept. 9, we need to show progress or people are going to start asking why hasn’t this come along,” Earley said in an interview yesterday at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual convention in Orlando, Florida.
PG&E’s violation of state and federal laws led to a natural-gas pipeline blast that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, California, according to investigators at the California Public Utilities Commission. State fines from investigations will be at least $200 million, Earley said last month.
Several commissioners and senior staff at the CPUC are amenable to the idea of pushing for a settlement because the three investigations are related, Earley said. Regulators are considering fines against PG&E for misclassifying pipelines, poor record keeping and other safety violations.
With the state having concluded its staff reports into the San Bruno event, “it is possible” that “detailed discussions as to the outlines of a settlement have begun,” Hugh Wynne, utility analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, wrote yesterday in a research note to investors. Total pipeline fines and penalties could range from $500 million to $1 billion, Wynne said.
Earley declined to comment on whether the utility is in talks with the commission. The CPUC doesn’t comment on pending cases, commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said in an e-mail.
Earley said his goals for 2012 are to wrap up the San Bruno-related proceedings, continue investing in bolstering the company’s infrastructure and to begin rebuilding “severely damaged” customer relations.
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