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Judge Suspends San Bruno Explosion Hearings For Closed-Door Negotiations

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) — A California judge has approved a request to suspend public hearings and hold closed-door negotiations on fines to be levied after the deadly natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The California Public Utilities Commission had been holding public hearings over the blast that killed eight people, injured others and destroyed dozens of homes in 2010.

On Friday, the commission's Consumer Protection and Safety Division filed a motion seeking a month-long suspension of public hearings over penalties to be levied against the pipeline's owner, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

KCBS' Susan Kennedy Reports:

The CPUC administrative judge decided Monday to put the hearings on hold until Oct. 15. Assemblyman Jerry Hill of San Mateo and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane had urged the judge to continue open hearings over the Sept. 9, 2010, blast.

In an interview with KCBS, Hill questioned the timing and the reason for the motion.

"There's something fishy here that is very suspect. Why on a Friday afternoon would they do that?" Hill said.

"Until you have all the evidence on the table, until everyone hears from all of the witnesses. It's impossible; I believe to have a fair equitable and just settlement," Hill added.

PG&E spokesperson Brittney Chord said as part of the hearing process, witnesses submit their testimony before taking the stand, which is public record. Answers to attorney questions are not yet on the record.

Chord assured that any elected officials and regulators would be available and able to handle questions about testimony or any other customer concerns.

The California PUC did not return KCBS' request for comment by late Monday afternoon.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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