The Kenwood Press
News: 04/01/2017

PG&E to remove 23 trees over pipeline

Removal is part of statewide gas line oversight

Jay Gamel

PG&E will be taking down more trees in Sonoma Valley, but this time they are taking a measured approach to deciding where the ax will fall, rather than clear cutting under the power lines like they did a few years ago.

The current effort is intended to make sure emergency responders can get to buried gas pipe lines. A recent survey of Sonoma Valley’s gas pipeline found 176 trees growing nearby, but only 23 will have to be removed, most of them between Oakmont Drive and Melita Road, on the northeast side of Highway 12.

“The safety standard is ten feet on either side of the pipeline,” Jeff Smith explained. “More than ten feet is manageable.” Smith is a spokesperson for the California utility that provides gas and electricity to Central and Northern California.

PG&E is still reeling from the blowback from 2010’s disastrous gas explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people and revealed a decades-old pattern of neglect and mismanagement.

“We understand that trees are important to the community,” Smith said. “We will work with the property owners who are impacted.”Allthetreesslatedforremovalare situated on four parcels and the company is negotiating with the owners now, he added.

Even though gas can be shut off in an emergency, crews still have to locate the break, dig down to it, and clamp off both sides of the break.

Smith said there are 460 trees along the Highway 12 pipeline, but all the rest are far enough away to remain in place, with regular monitoring.

In all, Smith said the company has “spent $3 billion in gas safety over the past three years.”

A federal judge found the company guilty of criminal charges in January. Besides imposing a $3 million fine, he ordered the company to perform 10,000 hours of community work, most of it to be done in San Bruno, and some of it to be done by executives. What’s more, the company has to pay another $3 million to inform the public about the decision, and not charge ratepayers anything to cover the costs of the fine or advertising.

You can learn more about the company’s gas improvement program at pge.com, search for “cpsi.”