• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

PG&E top exec. resigns in wake of pipeline blast

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.'s Chairman, chief executive and President Peter Darbee is stepping down with a $35 million retirement package following a 'challenging year' that included a gas pipeline explosion in a San Francisco suburb that killed eight and destroyed 38 homes, the company announced.

April 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Pacific Gas & Electric's top executive is retiring after a year that included the deadly natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

Chairman, CEO and President Peter Darbee is expected to retire at the end of the month. He will leave with a $35 million retirement package.

"Going forward, we have to regain the confidence that in some cases we've lost over the past year from some of our customers, regulators and others," said Brian Hertzog, a spokesman for the parent company's utility division, PG&E Co. "Mr. Darbee thinks new leadership is the best way to do that."

PG&E says that Lee Cox will serve as interim chairman, and a new permanent chief will be announced in the weeks ahead.

Consumer advocates said Darbee's resignation was long overdue, and railed against a corporate structure that will direct some ratepayer money to pay for a portion of Darbee's pension.

Earlier this month, the company's chief operating officer and senior vice president of engineering and operations also announced they were resigning.

In the meantime, the NTSB has yet to determine a cause of the explosion that killed eight people and destroyed nearly forty homes in September. The blast ignited a fire that raged for an hour and 40 minutes and sent dozens of people to the hospital for burn treatment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.