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,
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.