Frequently asked questions

PG&E claims trees are dangerous to underground pipelines. Is that true?


Trees are not a major threat category that PG&E factors in their risk analysis. PG&E confirms that tree roots have never experienced a transmission pipeline accident anywhere in their system at any time. PG&E's studies do not determine that tree roots cause corrosion or cracking on their pipelines. PG&E's major causes of accidents are: third-party dig-ins, manufacturing defects, and incorrect operation. For safety-related information can be found here: Safety Risk of Trees. Included in the Safety Report is a summary graph of all accidents in the US in the last 20 years.




Do trees inhibit first responder access to pipelines in an emergency, as PG&E claims?


First responders say no. In an emergency situation of a gas leak or pipeline rupture, first responders would contact PG&E to receive immediate information as to the pipeline's diameter and location, and to ensure the gas flow has been shut off. With accurate information, first responders know how close they can move towards the breach. First responders work quickly to move as close as is safely possible, to attend to their job of keeping people and property safe. They would not drive up to the specific site of an emergency pipeline incident until they know gas has been shut off and gas is dissipated. The Fire Marshall of Contra Costa County has said that the fire department has not been involved with PG&E’s initiative to remove trees. The real safety concern for first responders and our community is ensuring PG&E has the most accurate records of the specifications of our pipeline infrastructure. And when an event occurs, PG&E must shut off the gas using remote or manual isolation valves as soon as possible.




Is the removal of these 272 trees an urgent safety concern?


Based on the lack of evidence, the removal of these trees is not an urgent safety concern and in fact may detract resources away from true safety measures. These trees have been present for as long or longer as the pipeline has existed, which is over 70 years in some cases. Even PG&E admits there is no urgent safety concern, and say this program exists should trees be found to be a problem in the future. This is not sufficient reason to destroy important heritage trees along trails and backyards. More importantly, PG&E should instead focus on the important safety work of installing automated or remote shut-off valves, updating outdated pipeline infrastructure, burying exposed pipeline segments, and conducting state-of-the-art internal inspections using "smart pig" technology.




PG&E said one of my private trees is designated for removal. Do I need to sign their agreement?


As a resident with a tree on private property, you have NO REQUIREMENT to sign an agreement with PG&E to remove your tree. This is the law (Clarification PI-ZZ-49), and PG&E cannot require any private tree removal unless it's an emergency. You may find it helpful to look at the original easement language that should have been disclosed when you purchased your property. Most easement agreements do not give PG&E permission to cut trees, and therefore, PG&E has no legal right to do so. PG&E will try to offer you 15-gallon plants at a location of your choosing, but these will not replace the mature trees in our neighborhoods.




What are the other options to cutting down our trees?


For trees on public and private property, the best solution is to leave the trees in question, or move the aging pipeline further into the Lafayette Trail or outside the neighborhoods altogether. PG&E is resistant to install a new pipeline replacement in our community using the latest technology due to the cost of the project -- it's cheaper to monitor the aging pipeline in place, but it's definitely not safer.

Other options PG&E could employ instead include installment of automated or remote shut-off valves and implementation of the gold-standard internal "smart pig" inspections, both methods proven to be beneficial to pipeline integrity in HCAs (High Consquence Areas).
Remember, there is no data to support that cutting trees increases safety.




Shouldn't we trust PG&E, since they say they've achieved "gas safety excellence" in the past six years?


Following PG&E’s 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion, the company pledged multiple improvements that would transform PG&E into the safest gas company in the United States. We explored what progress PG&E has made in fulfilling this promise, and compared their gas safety performance rank today relative to their industry peers. See more information in our analysis paper: PG&E Gas Pipeline Safety Performance





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