SAVE LAFAYETTE TREES UPDATES
November 27, 2019
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 continued work to help encourage PG&E to be transparent and accountable.
DOWNLOAD: Our PDF Presentation to City Council - Nov 25, 2019
Exposed Pipeline: Third-Party Report & Our Written 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 make the news - 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 - And not the good kind. Here are a few recent articles highlighting PG&E's business practices and safety lapses...see a pattern?
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.
Briones Trees - Earlier this summer, PG&E cut 245 trees in Briones Park along the gas pipeline. Although many of these trees were smaller, larger oaks were also unfortunately taken down, and it appears PG&E applied herbicides on some of the stumps. (See our Briones Park "Wall of Shame" for examples.) Regardless, we're continuing our lawsuits to hold PG&E accountable and redoubling our efforts to preserve the 207 trees in Lafayette. Read our open letter to Robert Doyle, General Manager of EBRPD, asking him to prioritize pipeline safety over tree removal.
"Hybrid" Task Force of Citizens + City Anointed - At City Council, the City chose not to create a formal gas safety task force, but instead expressed support for the citizen-led gas safety task force to continue the "Gas Safety Alliance" meetings with PG&E and the CPUC. This group looks forward to presenting findings and suggestions in future City Council meetings.
Story: "Lafayette to form hybrid citizen group on gas safety"
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.
CITY OF LAFAYETTE'S FINANCIAL EXPOSURE - With PG&E's bankruptcy filing, we've renewed our calls to the new City Council to unwind this agreement. With PG&E unable to pay their legal bills -- or those of the City -- the City faces increased legal exposure, especially if we win judgement in court with our CEQA claim. The City Attorney disclosed the City has unpaid invoices and risks many more should PG&E file bankruptcy and voluntarily reject the agreement.
More info in the East Bay Times.
VICTORY IN COURT - The California Court of Appeal ruled in our favor, stating that our CEQA complaint was filed on time, and the Superior Court must rule on the merits of the case. This ruling is significant. Since the facts are clear that no environmental review was done on this program, we're confident that this decision provides a good chance for ultimate legal victory. Congrats to everyone who has ridden along on this journey and provided support to get us this far.
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.