On a one-on-one basis with affected property owners, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) has offered various options for making whole the owners of the destroyed or damaged San Bruno, CA, homes from the Sept. 9 natural gas transmission pipeline explosion and fire that killed eight, destroyed 37 homes and damaged 18 others.

A San Francisco-based PG&E spokesperson told NGI Tuesday that the combination utility is offering to cover all the applicable expenses not covered by the individual homeowner's insurance, depending on which option is selected. In addition, PG&E is offering to provide cash bonuses for various options, exercised over given time periods. There are rebuild, sale and beautification options for the 55 destroyed or badly damaged properties, along with homes in the general broad impact area.

Bonuses can be up to $50,000 for a homeowner who decides within six months to sell an eligible property to the utility or within 16 months rebuilds on that property. Over longer periods of time up to a year on sales and up to two years on rebuilds, lesser bonuses of $25,000 (for sales within nine months, rebuilds within 20 months) and $12,500 (for sales within 12 months, rebuilds within two years). For other homes that just need external maintenance work to restore the general neighborhood, PG&E is offering $10,000/property owner. For all of the property owners involved, the utility is also offering to pay up to $5,000 in legal and accounting fees needed for the owners to decide which option to take.

The PG&E spokesperson said the property owners are not required to sign away their future legal rights to suing the utility if they accept one or more of the offers.

Separately at a state Senate joint committee hearing in Sacramento Tuesday on the pipeline tragedy (see related story), San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane complained about the lack of transparent communication from PG&E to local officials regarding the buyout and rebuild programs. He was generally supportive of other post-explosion communications efforts by PG&E.

PG&E indicated that it wants to ease landowners' concerns about the long-term economic value of their properties in the aftermath of an incident that literally scorched a wide swath of a quiet residential area, and it also seeks to begin to build more public trust among its consumers generally.

PG&E began distributing information on the offer to eligible property owners last week, and the spokesperson told NGI Tuesday that the utility has made contact with about 75% of the eligible owners.

©Copyright 2010 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.