San Francisco News

PG&E CEO committed to winning back customer trust

Monday, December 12, 2011

PG&E's new CEO says ratepayers have good reason not to trust the utility. Anthony Earley told reporters he's committed to winning back that trust.

Earley said he wanted to talk with reporters about his first 90 days on the job. He talked about establishing accountability, customer respect and transparency, but on the latter came up a little short on specifics.

The San Bruno disaster in September 2010 killed eight people and destroyed 37 homes. The new PG&E CEO says he understands customer confidence in the utility is at an unacceptably low level.

"What we have to do is win back our customers one customer at a time," he said.

Earley believes the road back is a matter of providing excellent customer service.

"When we tell a customer we're going to be there at a certain time and we don't show up, that is disrespectful of the customer's time and it's not just, 'Oh well, we missed it,'" he said. "We're not respecting them and I've made it clear that's the type of thing that I just won't tolerate."

But the investigation into what happened in San Bruno turned up a great many more issues. Federal investigators found the company did a poor job of record-keeping, and add to that a lack of transparency. Bay Area residents have been frustrated in their efforts to find out about the pipelines in their neighborhoods because of a 60-year-old secrecy law that PG&E has supported.

"That's something I think we really need to look at and talk to the CPUC about and what is the appropriate approach to access to records," he said.

Since most states don't have this law and since the utility is desperately looking to re-establish trust with its customers, we asked Earley if there were plans to lobby to open this up.

"That hasn't been high on my priority list, but it's certainly one of the things we need to look at," he said.

Earley says the company plans to spend $2.2 billion to upgrade its gas pipeline system. The company says it will pick up $500 million of that. However, the remaining $1.7 billion will be passed onto ratepayers if the utility gets approval for it from the CPUC.

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PG&E, san bruno fire, explosion, san bruno, san francisco news, mark matthews
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