PG&E Corp. said Tuesday it has named DTE Energy Anthony Earley, 62, as its new chairman, CEO and president, filling a vacancy created last April when the former PG&E head retired abruptly as the company’s San Francisco-based combination utility was facing mounting public criticism for its handling of the San Bruno pipeline rupture and explosion.

Earley is the first CEO to come from outside PG&E in the giant utility’s more than 100-year history. The holding company for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) said it is putting the company’s leadership under “one of the nation’s more experienced energy executives.”

California’s top regulator, Michael Peevey welcomed the new appointment at PG&E. “New leadership is clearly needed, and Earley seems to have the background, experience and skill set necessary to lead the company in the challenging years ahead,” said Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission and a former utility president and board member at Southern California Edison Co.

As head of Michigan-based DTE Energy and its core businesses of Detroit Edison Co. and Michigan Consolidated Gas Co., Earley was credited with running two of the nation’s more respected electric and natural gas utility companies, according to Lee Cox, PG&E lead director and its interim CEO since Peter Darbee left the job (see Daily GPI, April 26).

At the time, Darbee and the San Francisco-based utility had been under increasing regulatory and consumer heat, first with customer backlash to the state-mandated shift to smart meters, and more recently by the San Bruno rupture and explosion (see Daily GPI, March 29; March 25; March 14).

Cox indicated that under Earley’s leadership the DTE utilities have had strong records on “many of the industry’s key safety and reliability measures.” Nevertheless, when he assumes the top job at PG&E Sept. 13, four days after the first anniversary of the San Bruno explosion, Earley will be inheriting a multi-billion-dollar utility that has fallen to historic lows in terms of trust among regulators, elected officials and consumers.

Cox called Earley “highly respected and a proven CEO” who is expected to bring a fresh outlook. “We looked across the industry and found the person best qualified to help us win back public confidence,” Cox said.

During Earley’s leadership at DTE he led reorganizations of its utility and nonutility businesses, including the buying and eventually selling of early interests in the Barnett Shale gas play in Texas (see Daily GPI, Aug.15, 2007).

More recently, Edison Electric Institute CEO Tom Kuhn said Earley “pulled the industry together to develop a common proactive position supporting a reasonable and affordable approach to climate change, enabling us to be a constructive force in the discussions.”

Earley began his utility career with Long Island Lighting Co. in 1985 and was its president at one time (1989-1994). He joined DTE in 1994 in a senior position. Earlier he was an officer in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine program. He holds undergraduate (physics) and graduate (engineering and law) degrees from the University of Notre Dame.

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