PG&E Public Relations Response Amid Felony Charges In San Bruno Explosion Is To Cut Out Journalists

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF)– While PG&E has been claiming it is being accountable for the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire that killed eight people and resulted in federal felony charges being filed against the corporation Monday, the company’s executives have yet to face the media.

Instead, the utility has chosen to distribute “video news releases” of edited sound bites for the media to use, in addition to purchasing television advertising.

PG&E began the public relations campaign with an edited video news release last week, anticipating the charges.


While the company won’t face the media, local leaders have plenty to say.

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane says, “This was not an accident. The explosion of Line 132 was the result of deliberate and intentional misconduct by PG&E over the last 25 years.”

Crisis Manager Larry Kamer said what the company does now is key.

“It is absolutely a critical junction for them,” Kamer said. “I mean when you face an indictment, a huge industrial accident and deaths – a lot of bad news, bad facts – the level of trust gets set back so far.”

Besides facing accountability under the law, a company must maintain accountable to shareholders, and Kamer adds, “Sometimes answering reporter’s questions is not the best strategy. [Video news releases are] just another tactic in the arsenal that companies like PG&E have.”

Ultimately, PG&E needs to get its company out of crisis mode, and regain trust.

For Mayor Ruane, it’s a long road ahead. “They keep talking about what they have done and what they are going to do. This was not an accident; this could have been prevented.”

PG&E did hold a news conference back in August of 2012, as the new chairman addressed the media to discuss his first 90 days.

To see a raw example of the style of video being released by PG&E, watch the clip below, or click the links to see other examples of a video news release that PG&E sends to journalists.

Meanwhile, San Bruno’s city leaders are asking that state regulators fine the utility company the maximum penalty allowed.

The city has been getting hefty payments from the company to repair the area and PG&E has also set up a trust fund, not just for the explosion victims, but for the entire city of San Bruno.

In an interesting twist, San Bruno has become a point person of sorts among communities that are concerned about whether or not the pipeline system in the State of California is safe.

Not only is San Bruno at odds with PG&E, but they’ve been very vocal in their complaints against what they call a cozy relationship between the utility and the California Public Utilities Commission, the state body which oversees them. In a sense the city has become this proverbial David going up against the Goliath corporation and its governing entity.


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