SAVE LAFAYETTE TREES UPDATES

October 4, 2021

Forest Trees

City Council approves Tree Assessment: On Sept. 27th the City Council approved 4-0 (Gina Dawson recused) the Proposed Tree Assessment Process which will hire a pipeline expert to re-examine 207 tree removals.  We appreciate the City and PG&E relooking at this issue, and are confident their pipeline experts will conclude that 70 year old pipelines surrounded by 100+ year old heritage trees are not "an immediate emergency." No tree has every caused a gas transmission pipeline accident, and we've done a lot of work over the last four years making our pipeline safer. Let's move on to real community pipeline safety efforts. 

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Lafayette Pipeline Audit Results -  The CPUC released their closure letter after conducting the Transmission Integrity Management Program (TIMP) audit in Lafayette. While many questions remain unanswered, PG&E was found to be "unsatisfactory" in how they calculated HCA (high consequence areas) in Lafayette. This is a very important designation triggering testing requirements. PG&E was also asked to continue to study the root/pipeline interaction information given the study performed before implementing the CPSI program. The CPUC also asked PG&E to conduct more studies about the risk of letting roots en mass die along the pipeline, which can add risk by causing external corrosion. .

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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. We still strongly believe in the merits of our case and on August 10 filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court of California.

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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.

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Winter 2020 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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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. 

 

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Save Lafayette Trees

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improve PG&E pipeline safety

Our mission is to protect the environment and demand PG&E gas safety for Lafayette and California. 

 

PG&E tree removal along their gas transmission pipelines is not a safety initiative. It's a destructive program that diverts money and time away from important gas pipeline and electrical 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 Lafayette pipelines, conducting internal pipeline "pig" inspections, installing remote-controlled isolation valves, replacing aging pipelines, protecting exposed pipeline spans, and enhancing cathodic protection, to start.

Save Lafayette Trees is supported by many influential organizations:
 

Successes

  • 272 trees saved to date.
     

  • Identified several flaws in HCA determinations by PG&E.
     

  • Brought pipeline improvements to Lafayette: PG&E buried pipeline, completed integrity testing, added cathodic protection, signs etc.
     

  • Identified four dangerous exposed pipelines in Lafayette. Successfully convinced PG&E to bury or address danger of leaning trees and damaged coatings
     

  • Highlighted dangers of Tier 2 & Tier 3 wildfire zones to pipeline safety.
     

  • Won latest Court of Appeal decision in CEQA lawsuit against PG&E in early 2019.
     

  • Conducting ongoing safety Alliance meetings with PG&E, CPUC, City of Lafayette.
     

  • Presented at national Pipeline Safety Trust conference.
     

  • Supported other communities and individuals in California.
     

  • More...

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