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'We're A Fundamentally Changed Company,' Outgoing PG&E CEO Says

PG&E Corp. CEO Anthony F. Earley Jr. on Thursday declared that much maligned combination utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is a completely changed company with a sharp focus on safety.

While regulators, elected officials and consumer advocates still would disagree about the transformation, Earley said PG&E has decided not to appeal a final part of the federal criminal jury conviction for the company's role in theSeptember 2010 pipeline rupture and explosion that killed eight people and devastated a residential area of San Bruno south of San Francisco.

In January, a federal court in San Francisco levied a $3 million fine on PG&E and sentenced the utility to a five-year probation period, oversight by a third-party monitor, and requirements that it acknowledge its conviction in the federal case in future advertisements and communications.

"Last year we decided not to appeal five [natural gas transmission pipeline] integrity management counts, and we have now decided also not to appeal the obstruction of justice count," said Earley, who joined PG&E from DTE Energy in 2011 after the previous CEO resigned in the midst of mounting public outcry over San Bruno. Earley was the first CEO to come from outside the venerable San Francisco-based utility in its 100-plus year history.

"As we focus on the future, I want to assure all of our stakeholders that the San Bruno incident has fundamentally changed the way we operate this company," he said.

Earley reiterated that, even with current uncertainties in Washington, DC, California will "continue to lead the way in transitioning to a clean energy economy, and PG&E will be a critical partner in these efforts and is well positioned to help the state achieve its goals."

With the state's only major nuclear generating plant (Diablo Canyon) and the nation's largest private utility operated hydroelectric system, last year 71% of PG&E's power supplies were greenhouse gas-free, Earley said.

As announced earlier, Earley, 67, is stepping down as CEO and will become executive chairman of the PG&E board, while Geisha Williams, 55, assumes the CEO and presidency of the corporation, and Nick Stavropoulos, 58, becomes president and COO of the utility at PG&E. The changes are effective March 1.

For 4Q2016, PG&E reported profits of $692 million ($1.36/share), compared to $134 million (27 cents) for the last quarter of 2015. For full-year 2016, profits were $1.39 billion ($2.78), compared to $874 million ($1.39) for full-year 2015.

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