By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
Posted on September 28, 2010
East Palo Alto city officials felt that there were serious misunderstandings that needed to be clarified. So, representatives from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), were ready not only to make the clarifications, but they were also prepared to apologize for the misunderstandings at the East Palo Alto City Council meeting on September 28.
One major misunderstanding developed, in the aftermath of the gas explosion in San Bruno, when PG&E identified several gas mains that were located in East Palo Alto as being located in Menlo Park. Another misunderstanding that rankled city officials occurred when it was publicized that PG&E had discussed the pipelines with East Palo Alto’s Mayor David Woods in the aftermath of the San Bruno explosion.
Jimmy Harris, the senior government relations official representing PG&E apologized for the misunderstandings and the incorrect information that was given to the media. In making his apology, Harris stated that PG&E was committed to working with city officials and committed to providing good service to the community.
“PG&E takes safety seriously and we are willing to work with the city’s residents,” he said. To this end he gave out a number -- 1(888)743-7431 -- that residents could call if they had questions. He stated that he was at the meeting also to let the city know that he was a consistent representative from PG&E with whom the city could work.
Harris told council members that PG&E would distribute information in Spanish to give the city’s Spanish-speaking residents access to up-to-date information.
Several city officials told Harris that the city felt slighted and ignored when PG&E stated that the gas mains in East Palo Alto were located in Menlo Park and that PG&E had not communicated with city officials.
East Palo Alto’s Interim City Manager, ML Gordon said that we take this extremely seriously, that we felt ignored, intentionally or unintentionally, and we are appalled at the information that was put in the papers by PG&E concerning East Palo Alto.
In an effort to correct the miscommunications and some of the missteps on PG&E’s part, representatives from PG&E met on Thursday, September 23, with East Palo Alto council members, Gordon, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis and Menlo Park’s Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman, among others. PG&E sent letters to the city the following Friday with clarifications and an action plan.
In discussing the results of the meeting, Gordon said that while there was more information that was forthcoming from PG&E, he was “somewhat dissatisfied with the timing of the communications.”
Council member Ruben Abrica accepted the apology that Harris presented to the city and said that he thought everyone deserved a second chance. Romero said that he, too, was happy that Harris came to the council meeting and delivered an apology to the city. Romero expressed the hope that there would be better relations with PG&E in the future.
While Abrica and Romero were publicly ready to accept Harris’ apology and his assertion that future relations with PG&E would be considerably improved, council member Peter Evans was not so understanding.
“You’re here, now, because ML Gordon demanded that you come,” Evans said. “Otherwise you would not be here…. There were people in San Bruno who will not get a second chance. We want a first chance,” he said.
During the council’s exchange with Harris, it was revealed that Congresswoman Anna Eshoo had called PG&E’s CEO and insisted that he contact Gordon. It was confirmed at the council meeting that the requested call to Gordon had been made and that letters were written by Eshoo and San Mateo County Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson supporting East Palo Alto and its inclusion on PG&E’s list of locations containing 100 high risk pipelines.
Toward the end of the exchange with the city council, Harris said that the gas lines in East Palo Alto were under review and the work that needed to be done on them, including the installation of cutoff valves, and an engineering report would be completed by October 31.