SAVE LAFAYETTE TREES UPDATES
May 25, 2020
PG&E Pipeline Safety - In our last discussion with PG&E, we discussed PG&E's second exposed pipeline report that confirmed dangers of exposed lines with overhanging trees during wildfire. PG&E again chose to not study the welds on the pipeline, which is a major oversight. PG&E also confirmed they mis-identified the Girl Scout camp as non High Consequence Area, and that they fixed that designation. PG&E said there were again 17 dig-in accidents in their gas pipeline system in Lafayette, which we identified as an issue that needs addressing. We hope these (and other) safety concerns will be resolved instead of their plan to remove trees above the pipeline.
SPRING UPDATE - After the letter was sent by the City of Lafayette (see below), PG&E resumed communication with the City and residents. The next Gas Safety Alliance Meeting will be held on April 7 at City offices (update: now scheduled to be held via video call); this is a public meeting. Since our last update, PG&E has cleared 13 trees above the exposed pipeline at Briones Park and Girl Scout Camp. While we dislike seeing any trees cut, we recommended their removal due to the clear and present danger they posed to Lafayette residents and the 60 year old sagging spans. PG&E promises to share results of an addendum study that addresses our questions of welds and wildfire temperature impacts.
LETTER TO CPUC SENT BY LAFAYETTE MAYOR - PG&E has stopped communicating with Lafayette and its residents regarding gas safety. This fundamental change in how they worked with us to improve pipeline safety happened after we pointed out the exposed pipelines in Briones Park and Girl Scout camp, thereby showing PG&E does not adequately prioritize safety issues. As a result, the Mayor of Lafayette has sent this strong letter to the head of the CPUC, copying Governor Newsom and PG&E CEO Bill Johnson. Thank you, Mayor Mike Anderson! We will update this site with any reaction from the CPUC, PG&E, or our state officials.
THANKS LAFAYETTE CITY COUNCIL - We're thankful for the members of our City Council. Not only are listening to our concerns about PG&E in many of our City Council meetings, they are taking action in a visible and helpful way. On Nov 25th, they heard our lengthy presentation on gas pipeline safety in Lafayette and will be budgeting for an official commission on utilities. Earlier, the Mayor sent a letter to the CPUC asking that PG&E be held accountable financially for the power shut offs and fires which were caused by sub-standard lines. He also appeared on the news explaining these concerns. And as described in the Lamorinda Weekly, the Council invited PG&E to finally answer many of the questions around the Olympic Drive expanded regulator station, only to find PG&E failed to show. We appreciate the Council's work to encourage PG&E to be transparent and accountable.
Download: Presentation to City Council - Nov 25, 2019
EXPOSED PIPELINE REPORT & RESPONSE - See these links for PG&E's third-party engineering report and our comments. These comments were provided by our Gas Safety Task Force member Dennis Kuzak, retired catastrophic risk analyst, who pointed out several significant report omissions.
Note: PG&E still hasn't removed the trees leaning above the pipeline -- in fact, they didn't remove the dangerous trees per the report's recommendation, despite having this report in hand and hearing our requests for immediate attention prior to their forecasted historic wind events in late October.
EXPOSED PIPELINES - We now know of FOUR exposed pipeline segments that pose an unnecessary risk in the high wildfire zones of Briones Park and Springhill neighborhood. One sagging span in particular was brought up to PG&E four years ago. Another span is in Girl Scout camp where 250 kids stay and build fires. Another span had a nearby resident asking for years for PG&E to cut down increasingly-leaning trees, only to be told "we'll get back to you." PG&E seems to be ignoring important safety issues even when brought to their attention.
PG&E IN THE NEWS - Here are a few recent articles highlighting PG&E's business practices and safety lapses...
PG&E’s Long Record of Run-Ins With Regulators: A ‘Cat and Mouse Game’ - Wall Street Journal, Sept 6, 2019.
PG&E Knew for Years Its Lines Could Spark Wildfires, and Didn’t Fix Them, Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2019.
California Wildfires: How PG&E Ignored Risks in Favor of Profits, NY Times interactive article, March 18, 2019.
CPUC HEARING - We attended the July 31 CPUC "Rate Case" hearing in Santa Rosa and gave comments on the record that PG&E's $500 Million CPSI tree removal program is unnecessary and can contribute to additional risks to pipeline safety. Among other issues, we asked the CPUC to look into PG&E's reports that dead trees can increase external corrosion. We were approached by the CPUC division responsible for transparency, and look forward to engaging with them.
LEGAL UPDATE - On February 8th, the First District Court of Appeal reaffirmed their ruling in favor of Save Lafayette Trees regarding our claim the City did not properly conduct a CEQA review. This decision hands the case back to Contra Costa Superior Court for a final ruling. Additionally, PG&E filed an automatic stay on Feb.13, which puts our litigation on hold.
Save Lafayette Trees
improve PG&E pipeline safety
Our mission is to protect the environment and demand better gas safety for Lafayette and California.
PG&E tree removal along their gas transmission pipeline is not a safety initiative. It's an unnecessary and destructive program that diverts money and time away from important gas pipeline safety projects.
In 2017, PG&E & Lafayette city officials signed the "Community Pipeline Safety Initiative" Tree Cutting Agreement to cut down 272 trees in Lafayette. 216 of these trees are protected by City ordinance. There are no state or federal laws requiring tree removal along pipeline right-of-ways. There has never been an underground gas transmission pipeline accident caused by trees on PG&E pipelines. First responders want shut-off valves, not treeless trails. The City of Lafayette failed to solicit public input or do an environmental (CEQA) review prior the unregulated, discretionary program.
PG&E and the City should focus on higher-priority safety improvements including: pressure testing 100% of our pipelines, conducting internal pipeline "pig" inspections, installing automated shut-off valves, replacing aging pipelines, protecting exposed pipeline spans, and enhancing cathodic protection, to start.
Save Lafayette Trees is supported by many influential organizations:
272 trees saved to date, including 216 protected heritage trees.
Improved community safety with new buried pipeline segment on Lafayette-Moraga trail, new gas line markers, and PG&E attention.
Identified FOUR potentially dangerous, exposed pipelines near Springhill neighborhood.
Won latest Court of Appeal decision in CEQA lawsuit against PG&E in early 2019.
Formed ongoing safety Alliance meetings with PG&E, CPUC, City.
Presented at national Pipeline Safety Trust conference in 2018.
Supported other communities and individuals in California.
4 federal pipeline safety violations identified by CPUC.