Top 12 Reasons why pG&E shouldn't destroy lafayette trees
Tree roots are NOT a safety risk to transmission gas pipelines.
PG&E confirms that they have never experienced a tree accident on their 6,000 miles of gas transmission pipeline in the history of their company. PG&E cannot point to any study saying tree roots directly cause pipeline corrosion. Other gas utilities don't have programs like PG&E to remove trees along gas pipelines. Trees don't pull up transmission lines.
Trees do not hinder first-responder access.
Lafayette's first responders have stated in writing that PG&E's excuses for easy access are grossly incorrect. Firefighters require gas lines to be shut off to enter pipeline accident areas, not immediate access to all points.
PG&E's multi-year effort detracts from needed safety improvements.
PG&E spent years rolling out the "Pipeline Pathways" across California, and then years afterwards reapplying efforts as part of the "Community Pipeline Safety Initiative". What if PG&E had instead spent the time, money, and personnel towards helping address the true cause of accidents (dig-ins, external corrosion, equipment failure, exposed pipelines, etc) or more automated shut-off valves.
The City of Lafayette did not conduct a required CEQA environmental review.
The Tree Cutting Agreement was conducted without environmental review, as required by CEQA. PG&E's own materials state that CEQA is required for local programs such as this. In the rush to get this agreement signed, the City did not require PG&E to conduct an environmental review as was done in other areas such as Santa Cruz County where PG&E eventually walked away from pipeline tree cutting.
The City of Lafayette did not properly notify residents.
Not only did the City of Lafayette not sufficiently notice residents living within 300 feet of trees proposed for removal, as required, they did not notify residents who OWNED trees listed for removal as they negotiated the payment for this privately-owned property. And the money for these trees will go to the City, not the owners.
There are benefits to leaving trees in place along gas pipelines.
The placement of trees near pipelines offer many benefits. Accidental digging and excavation is made more difficult with trees in place. In the event of a leak, a dead or dying tree is an excellent indicator of a problem to be addresses. In the unfortunate event of an explosion, trees provide blast impact shields when located within the blast radius. (source: national gas safety expert discussions, Oct. 2018)
PG&E is not addressing the most serious pipeline threats in Lafayette.
Over the last two years, Lafayette has had 27 dig-in accidents along PG&E gas pipelines (more than one per month). Half had valid 811 tickets for marking pipeline locations. Removing trees does nothing to address this significant safety issue.
PG&E may be INCREASING the risk on gas pipelines by removing trees.
PG&E's own root study reports warns of the dangers of removing trees near pipelines and leaving the tree roots in place. Decaying plant matter releases carbon dioxide which is a known corrosive agent. PG&E's own warnings to study this effect were not headed. Additionally, PG&E warned the CPUC that removal of tree mass directly near or above the pipeline may increase stress to existing pipeline welds. No studies were performed to study this effect either.
PG&E's abysmal safety record speaks for itself.
PG&E is a convicted felon for the wilful actions before and after the San Bruno accident that lead to 8 deaths, dozens injured and 38 homes burned to the ground. Since San Bruno, PG&E has falsified pipeline marker records for years, and continues to have one of the worst gas safety records in the nation. A judge has been assigned to oversee PG&E's safety culture.
Top federal regulators disprove statements made by PG&E's top executives regarding the rationale for conducting this tree cutting
In May of 2018, Save Lafayette Trees attended PG&E's annual shareholder meeting. We asked CEO Geisha Williams directly about the return on investment of the tree cutting program. Ms. Williams yielded to Nick Stavropoulos (PG&E company president & COO) who responded: "Federal regulators for pipelines in the U.S. Department of Transportation have identified that the number one safety issue for transmission pipelines is to defend the right of way--to make sure that the right of way around pipelines is kept clear of incompatible vegetation and structures." After reading the above statement by PG&E's president, Tom Finch, PHMSA Western Region Community Liaison, U.S. DOT, provided the following comments: "I do not know of anyone in the DOT who agrees with Nick’s statement." Furthermore: "PHMSA has identified the number one safety issue for U.S. gas transmission pipelines. It is Material/Weld/Equipment Failure."
PG&E is clearly lying about safety, and these statements come from the top of the corporation.
The Trellis downtown disproves PG&E's core rationale for tree removal
During Save Lafayette Tree's public document request, it was discovered PG&E and the City of Lafayette worked a special deal to save the very large, heavy and prominent Plaza Park trellis from destruction, despite PG&E's continued claims they need immediate access to "all points" along the gas pipeline. In fact, very small diameter, ornamental trees only feet away from the trellis will be removed, but not the trellis itself. Were private residents given an opportunity to secure such deals? Why isn't PG&E concerned about points along the pipeline under the trellis?
Trees are not dots on a map. They are cherished elements to our City that cannot be replaced.
We've visited PG&E to view trees proposed for removal, and each time PG&E employees remark on the unexpected beauty of these trees. Most employees only know them by dots on a map or rows in a spreadsheet. These iconic trees, mostly protected oaks, are older than the residents of the City. They provide shade, natural habitat to animals, value to private and park lands, and deserve our protection for generations to come.