PG&E Sued Over Century-old Pollution

Herring fishermen have accused Pacific Gas & Electric Co. of failure to clean-up pollution from low-tech nineteenth century gas-from-coal refineries sitting under the heart of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Marina districts.

An environmental lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court by the San Francisco Herring Association claims remnant toxic waste from these manufactured gas plants endangers people and is leaching into the bay and harming the herring fishery.

The refineries were used in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to create gas from coal, and later oil, or used a combination of coal and oil that was pumped into pipes to residential consumers for cooking, lighting and heating in the area.

Soil and groundwater in the area of these plants is highly contaminated that contain “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,” according to the lawsuit.

The fishermen allege PG&E has know about the dangers since the 1970s but did nothing to remedy the problem until it recently negotiated an arrangement with the state Public Utilities Commission to shift 90 percent of the remediation cost to ratepayers, the complaint states.

Despite that leaving PG&E  and its insurers just 10 percent liability, PG&E has not even begun the testing necessary to determine the extent of the contamination in the area, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks a court order holding PG&E liable for violation of the Clean Water Act and requiring the utility to clean up the wastes in the northern rim of San Francisco and the Bay.

Case: San Francisco Herring Assoc. v. PG&E, No.14-4393KAW


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