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San Bruno damage estimated at $55M

 | Published on 10/6/2010


San Bruno officials are expressing worry and frustration the city would be on the hook for millions in costs related to the Sept. 9 explosion and fire after FEMA denied assistance — and are now left awaiting word from the governor’s office about an appeal.

“It puzzles me how [the government] can say we don’t need help when [they] don’t have a clue what the outcome will be,” said Mayor Jim Ruane, noting it is unclear what the total cost for the explosion and rebuilding will be. “The other thing that bothers me, this in fact is a local tragedy of epic proportions.”

The city is currently estimating $55 million in infrastructure damage but is unsure of costs for cleanup and staff time, both for San Bruno staff and those from neighboring cities that helped.

Schwarzenegger’s office, on behalf of San Bruno, applied for federal relief Sept. 15, which was denied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency last month.

“It has been determined that the damage was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments. Furthermore, we have determined that assistance from other sources, such as a responsible party, will be sufficient to meet the needs of the event and supplemental federal assistance is not necessary,” FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote in a Sept. 24 letter to the governor.

Ruane further questioned the decision saying if the event was not a major disaster — a denotation the government also denied — it would not be a topic in the U.S. Senate where he and City Manager Connie Jackson recently testified.

“To say we’re not going to recognize it is very disheartening. Hopefully the appeal will get in shortly,” he said.

Jackson echoed Ruane’s frustration. Not having the declaration of a major disaster could limit the resources available to the city, she said.

Although Fugate did not name the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the implication was clear. PG&E has pledged $100 million to the city and affected residents to rebuild. Of that, $3 million was given to the city thus far. On multiple times last night, Ruane stressed the unknown final cost of the incident and said officials cannot be sure the money will be enough.

It has been nearly one month since a 30-inch natural gas transmission line exploded in the Glenview neighborhood of the city causing a large fire which destroyed more than 30 homes, killed eight people, injured many and led to the evacuation of 271. Both federal and state legislators have introduced legislation to assist property owners and to increase safeguards for similar pipelines. Cleanup and recovery efforts by the county and property owners are also under way.

Two class action lawsuits have been brought against PG&E. Daniele DiTripani is the most recent to sue, filing a suit last week which alleges negligence in management of a pipeline causing immediate and future economic harm as well as injury to those living in the area. It asks for appropriate damages and a third-party to manage the $100 million fund to rebuild the neighborhood. 

Steve Dare filed a lawsuit Sept. 17 also seeking monetary compensation for damage caused by the explosion and fire.