PG&E Chairman Peter Darbee is resigning from the utility giant after policymakers began scrutinizing management decisions following a natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno last year, the company announced Thursday.
Darbee, who became CEO in 2005, said his resignation was “the right direction for the company,” spokesman Brian Hertzog said.
“It was absolutely Darbee’s decision to resign,” Hertzog said. “He took that decision to the board and they supported it.”
Hertzog clarified that despite media reports suggesting Darbee was offered about $35 million to leave, the CEO earned all money he will receive.
“He is entitled to pension benefits that he has earned during his tenure here,” he said.
PG&E is now on the hunt for a new CEO and in the interim, board member Lee Cox will head the utility. Darbee’s resignation will go into effect on April 30.
Hertzog said the search for a permanent chairman should take several weeks and that no other changes in company management have been planned.
Several state officials and agencies have expressed approval of Darbee’s resignation.
“While obviously the company under his leadership has been responsible for several poor and consequential decisions, Mr. Darbee’s commitment to PG&E and its constituents is unquestioned,” said Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, in a statement.
“The news that Peter Darbee is stepping down provides an opportunity for PG&E to begin rebuilding its reputation,” said Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, in a statement.
On Sept. 9, 2010, a pipeline segment explosion under the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood in San Bruno killed eight people and damaged or destroyed more than 50 homes.
Since then, politicians and members of the public have accused PG&E management of poor pipeline maintenance and of concealing information about what equipment is being used to power the homes of customers.
“Thursday’s announcement is a good start, but the company still has a long way to go to regain the public’s trust,” Hill said.
Saul Sugarman, Bay City News