SAN BRUNO (CBS 5) — As Pacific Gas & Electric Co. faces a criminal investigation and lawsuits over the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, the utility’s new leadership is rolling out a campaign to regain public trust.
The new campaign starts off with a TV ad featuring a mea culpa from their new CEO Tony Earley.
“I saw a company that had lost its way. But I came here because the people clearly haven’t,” Earley said in the ad.
PG&E spokesperson Joe Molica told CBS 5, “We have said that we take full responsibility for the tragedy.”
The $10 million media blitz began a week ago. Molica said customers wanted to hear more about their pipeline safety efforts.
“And at the end of the day, this is all about letting our customers know the progress that we’re getting and the goals that we have to make us the safest and most reliable systems in the country,” he said.
The new ad comes as PG&E faces lawsuits over whether or not the utility should pay punitive damages for the 2010 blast that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
PG&E said the ad was paid for with money from shareholders and not from customers. They also denied they were trying to influence the jury pool with good PR.
“It takes many, many months to plan an outreach program like this. And there has been no motive to do anything of the sort,” Molica said.
Mike Danko, an attorney representing about 50 blast survivors and their families, wants PG&E to focus on pipeline safety.
“Sure they can repair their image, but first repair the pipes. Get their system up to speed. Get their system so it’s safe. And there’s no room until that’s done for patting themselves on the back,” Danko said.
Danko added it shouldn’t matter if the $10 million budget for the ad campaign was earmarked.
“If they’ve really taken to heart the lessons from the San Bruno fire, then this isn’t what they would be doing. They’d be out there right now improving the system and compensating the victims. Not trying to make themselves look good,” he said.
Radio ads from PG&E are slated to begin on Friday. The utility is also planning on newspaper ads and billboards in August.
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