PG&E picks Michigan power chief to head company

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The shell of a truck sits in front of a burned home near the epicenter of the gas line explosion that devastated a neighborhood near San Francisco International Airport on Sept. 24, 2010 in San Bruno, Calif.

Northern California power giant Pacific Gas and Electric has brought in outsider Anthony Early, a Michigan energy executive, to take over and fix the company's super-charged problems as its new president and CEO.

For 106 years, when PG&E needed to plug in a new boss, it chose someone from within the company. But last year's deadly San Bruno pipeline disaster and several other foulups have pushed the Northern California power giant to look outside for new leadership. The San Bruno disaster killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

It's found that new leader in Michigan, where 62-year-old Earley has been in top management of Detroit Edison or its parent company for 17 years. The word on Earley is that he's an excellent crisis manager, proving it in 2003 when the biggest blackout in U.S. history shut down power in much of the upper Midwest.

That's a crisis, but PG&E's blunders surrounding the San Bruno blast are worse from a financial and a public relations standpoint. The company will almost certainly have to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle San Bruno lawsuits.

The chair of the National Transportation Safety Board has scolded PG&E for misplacing documents on the condition of the San Bruno pipeline. All new PG&E boss Anthony Earley has to do is fix it all – and keep the lights on, too.

Earley plans to take over on Sept. 13 from lead director Lee Cox, who has been serving as interim CEO since long-time leader, Peter Darbee, stepped down in April. With a $35 million retirement package.

In a statement, Cox called Earley "the person best qualified to help us win back public confidence."

This story includes information from the Associated Press.

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