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Bizarre episode in state PUC’s efforts to coddle PG&E over San Bruno

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More background involving those four state Public Utilities Commission lawyers yanked from the case against PG&E after they resisted going along with the PUC’s efforts to tread lightly on the utility. Emails obtained by the Chronicle’s Jaxon Van Derbeken (for a pay-walled piece) indicate that Jack Hagen, the top PUC official who recommended that PG&E not be fined for its San Bruno ills told those lawyers that “fairies” were supplying him with information and that they should back him up “or else.” One of the lawyers wrote that Hagan was known to carry a concealed gun and a knife at the state agency’s San Francisco office and that the exchange left him feeling threatened.

An excerpt:

The e-mails were sent to the utilities commission's lead counsel by attorneys who had spent 2 1/2 years building a case that PG&E should be fined for regulatory violations in connection with the explosion of a natural-gas pipeline that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno's Crestmoor neighborhood on Sept. 9, 2010.

The attorneys were overruled by Hagan, the head of the PUC's safety division, a newcomer to the regulatory agency who told a pair of administrative law judges that the money PG&E's shareholders are spending to improve the gas system would be penalty enough.

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