Published: Apr 22, 2011 12:34 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 21, 2011 9:35 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.'s top executive is stepping down following a "challenging year" that included a natural gas pipeline explosion in a San Francisco suburb that killed eight and left 38 homes destroyed.
 
The San Francisco-based energy company says Thursday that chairman, chief executive and President Peter Darbee will retire on April 30.
 
The September blast on a 44-year-old transmission line in San Bruno ignited a fire that raged for an hour and 40 minutes and left dozens injured. The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to determine a cause.
 
PG&E says in a statement that Lee Cox will serve as interim chairman, CEO and president. Cox is a former president and CEO of AirTouch Cellular and has been a member of PG&E's board since 1996.

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)