SAVE LAFAYETTE TREES UPDATES
July 30, 2021
SLT v. East Bay Regional Parks - The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco heard oral arguments in our 2nd lawsuit against the EBRPD for allowing PG&E to remove 245 trees in Briones Park. The court sided with the opposing counsel and said our CEQA claim's statute of limitations, although timely filed with EBRPD's Tolling Agreement, was not timely filed since PG&E did not also sign the Tolling Agreement. We still believe in the merits of our case and will most likely pursue this issue in the State Supreme Court.
CPUC Audit - At the latest Gas Safety Alliance meeting with PG&E and the CPUC, we heard that the CPUC was not ready to disclose their Lafayette audit findings. Instead, this review will be held later this summer, most likely July or August. When asked about this year-long delay, the CPUC cited the extensive questions asked by the Lafayette Gas Safety Task Force. We appreciate their diligence.
Spring Update - PG&E continues their transmission gas pipeline work in downtown Lafayette. After testing just one mile of one pipeline in November, they discovered 69 instances of corrosion. The ranked the highest risk sections and are currently digging at 13 locations around town, repairing their line. This is important work for maintaining the safety of our 70-yr old pipelines. Unfortunately, PG&E spent years and lots of money attempting to remove trees along pipelines -- and continues to fight us in court -- while ignoring important corrosion issues. We call on PG&E to stop the tree cutting efforts and complete ILI testing in all the pipelines of Lafayette.
Winter 2021 Update - We're waiting on the CPUC's audit report of Lafayette gas transmission pipelines which should be published in April. As you may recall, the Gas Safety Task Force requested the CPUC to conduct a detailed review, which couldn't be completed until PG&E suddenly conducted a major downtown inline inspection program. The result of those tests? PG&E recently reported to the City of Lafayette they have found an incredible 69 instances of corrosion near downtown Lafayette. PG&E is requesting 36 encroachment permits to dig up their line to further inspect and repair. Corrosion, both internal and external, is a known safety risk to pipelines, so we appreciate PG&E's efforts to address. Although we wish they had prioritized this established safety risk over unnecessary tree cutting.
Additionally, we're waiting on court dates for both Save Lafayette Tree's CEQA lawsuit, and the City's lawsuit against PG&E.
Court Updates - On Dec 9, we filed an opening brief to appeal the East Bay Regional Parks district ruling made before PG&E entered bankruptcy. And on November 20, the US Bankruptcy Court again sided with the City of Lafayette and extended the restraining order, which stops PG&E from cutting 17 trees in Lafayette. PG&E has still not provided the Tree Permit information to the City, and once it does, the City Council will decide whether to approve or deny each Tree Permit. The ruling was the second legal setback to PG&E's tree cutting plans in Lafayette's trail.
City of Lafayette Files Lawsuit Against PG&E - To stop the tree cutting, below, the City of Lafayette has filed a lawsuit against PG&E for violating the terms of the 2017 Tree Agreement. Thank you Lafayette City Council for your fast & decisive response. A Bankruptcy Court hearing is scheduled for the morning of Nov 17, 2020, to determine if a temporary stay on cutting 17 trees should be ordered.
Read the City's press release.
PG&E Threatens 17 Trees on Lafayette-Moraga Trail - On Nov. 10, PG&E placed A-frame signs east of Stanley Middle School notifying residents 17 protected trees would be removed along the gas pipeline. Our lawsuit to protect these trees is active in court. The City requires PG&E to receive approval for Tree Permits, which they have not done. These trees are along untested pipelines installed in 1952, and do not pose a safety threat. PG&E should be testing and protecting these pipelines instead of taking valuable shade and screening from homes along the trail. We are studying our legal options at this time.
CPUC Audit - The CPUC conducted one week of their Lafayette-specific TIMP (Transmission Integrity Management Program) audit. At our request, the CPUC will be conducting a second week of the audit to further explore questions we submitted directly to the regulator and the operator. Read our letter of concerns here.
Pipeline Strength Testing Downtown - Without warning, PG&E coned off major portions of downtown from Aug - Nov. We've asked PG&E for the past three years to improve pipeline testing in Lafayette, and yet we were just as surprised. What caused them to perform these tests now? These 70-year old pipelines were not pressure tested and we are thankful it's finally happening in the busiest part of town. If weaknesses are found, PG&E will be replacing these pipelines. We ask that they share all information as this program commences in the name of full transparency. See the Lamorinda Weekly article for more information.
Lafayette Homeowner Council - today (July 27) the LHC again submitted a letter to the Lafayette City Council asking they hold PG&E accountable to safety while operating our pipelines, particularly regarding the use of automated shut-off valves. They also ask the City to stop the tree-cutting agreement with PG&E as this program does not improve safety. We couldn't agree more. We appreciate their support, and encourage everyone to read their letter. Read the full letter here.
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.
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.
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.
We believe PG&E 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.
Supported property-rights of homeowners and their privately-owned trees.
Secured Lafayette-specific TIMP audit by CPUC to address local safety concerns.
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 in Springhill neighborhood. Successfully convinced PG&E to address dangers of leaning trees and damaged coatings.
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.
Supported other communities and individuals in California.