SAN BRUNO (KCBS) - Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell is stepping down from overseeing private settlement talks over the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion.
San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane is applauding the move by Mitchell remove himself from talks over how much Pacific Gas and Electric should be fined for the deadly 2010 pipeline disaster in his city's Crestmoor neighborhood.
"It could have been anyone. It's got nothing to do with Mitchell and his firm at all. They're world renowned mediators and negotiators," Ruane told KCBS Radio Friday morning, as word began to spread that Mitchell had withdrawn.
Indeed, Ruane was just one of the voices questioning a seemingly clandestine agreement between the California Public Utilities Commission and PG&E to bring Mitchell and DLA Piper Global Law Firm in to mediate after talks stalled over how much the utility company should be fined for the pipeline tragedy.
The firm represents an insurance carrier for PG&E, which critics, including the consumer watchdog group The Utility Reform Network (TURN), say is a conflict of interest.
KCBS' Holly Quan Reports:
The recent revelation of Mitchell's selection as mediator was actually something of a double-whammy for Ruane, who said he didn't even realize that talks had deteriorated to the point of needing a third party to negotiate.
"This is just not right," stressed Ruane. "It has nothing to do with the Senator at all or his firm, it has to do with the process, the process not being followed properly, and fair and transparent."
PG&E and the CPUC offered no immediate response to news reports of Mitchell's decision. Commission staff said in an
internal letter that settlement talks could restart Monday without a mediator.
The 2010 blast killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
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