Monday, October 29, 2012

Pipeline mediation effort backfires

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, stepped down from potentially mediating settlement talks over a deadly Northern California pipeline explosion after state regulators set up a private process criticized by several parties as an unfair, "backroom deal." California's Public Utilities Commission appointed the former senator earlier this month to mediate Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s (PG&E) fine for the blast. San Bruno and San Francisco objected because he and his law firm previously had represented public utilities. This is perhaps unfortunate, as those with industry experience actually may be more helpful to these specialized negotiations. What seemed to really prompt the concern was was the decision to appoint him without prior consultation of the parties. Of course, any conflicts perceived should have been disclosed in advance of the mediation. Over the past couple of years, PG&E faced grueling public hearings over potential malfeasance leading up to the 2010 blast, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco. Read more: