PG&E head to resign amid setbacks
April 21, 2011
Following a rocky year and mounting public pressure from some pubic officials and consumer advocates, PG&E Chief Executive Officer Peter Darbee announces he is stepping down. [SanFranciscoChronicle]
San Luis Obispo County’s largest employer confirmed that its chairman will retire April 30 and will be temporarily replaced by PG&E board member Lee Cox, retired vice chairman of AirTouch Communications Inc., who will serve in the interim until a permanent CEO is hired.
The utility giant has suffered a series of public relations crises within the last year, starting with the Sept. 9, 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and incinerated a neighborhood, followed by customer backlash against its new wireless SmartMeters, and most recently questions of the seismic safety of its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in light of the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan following the natural disasters there.
“Over the past year, our company has faced difficult challenges that have diminished confidence in PG&E among some of our customers, regulators and others,” Darbee wrote in an e-mail to PG&E staff today.
“By creating the opportunity for a new CEO to address these challenges from a fresh starting point, my decision to retire is aimed at helping PG&E turn the page and carry on with the work we are doing to become a safer, stronger company,” Darbee continued. “It also demonstrates to customers, regulators and others the extent and the sincerity of our commitment to regaining confidence in our company.”
Darbee joined PG&E in 1999 and soon after gained national recognition for being one of the first energy executives to advocate for legislation that would combat climate change.
He departs with a total retirement package of $34.7 million, according to a document the company filed with federal regulators last month.