Christopher P. Johns led California's largest utility through deadly 2010 pipeline blast

SAN FRANCISCO – The man who led Pacific Gas & Electric Company through a deadly 2010 pipeline explosion in the San Francisco area is retiring at the end of the year.

PG&E announced the retirement of Christopher P. Johns in a statement Tuesday, praising his leadership and service. PG&E Chairman and CEO Tony Earley said the board of directors is likely to discuss a replacement plan before Johns’ last day December 31.

Johns joined PG&E in 1996 as vice-president and controller, becoming president of the state’s largest utility in August 2009.

In 2010, a natural gas pipeline explosion rocked San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco, killing eight people and destroying more than three dozen homes.

The explosion resulted in a record $1.6 billion state penalty against the company earlier this year, which PG&E accepted without appeal.

A federal investigation after the blast faulted both PG&E and lax oversight by the state utilities commission in the explosion.

PG&E is under state and federal criminal investigation related to backroom dealings between state regulators and company officials.

The company’s statement did not give a reason for the retirement, and a company spokeswoman had no immediate comment.