CHOPGATE UPDATE: Walnut Creek City Officials Meet with PG&E Regarding Tree Removals

April 12, 2014 11:30 am · 20 comments

Walnut Creek City officials met with PG&E on Friday to seek assurances that PG&E will not move forward with its Pipeline Pathways plan to remove more than 735 trees in Walnut Creek until the City and the utility company investigate alternatives and reach an understanding regarding legal and environmental concerns.

PG&E agreed not to remove any trees until an agreement was reached. However, the utility company indicated it will continue to contact private property owners to seek removal of structures that are on or near the pipeline. At Friday’s meeting, PG&E officials agreed to provide the City with a list of structures it is seeking to remove.

Mayor Kristina Lawson called the meeting a positive first step, but noted there are many issues to be resolved. “We continue to believe there are better ways to protect the community than arbitrarily chopping down trees and we ask PG&E to review every option, up to, and including, moving the pipeline,” said Lawson.

At issue is PG&E’s Pipeline Pathways program, which calls for removal of all trees, structures and some vegetation along the length of it 6,750‐mile natural gas transmission pipeline. A clear pathway above the pipeline will allow the utility to better maintain, inspect and safely operate the system, according to an Information Sheet from PG&E.

City officials say PG&E has not proven that the trees pose a danger to the pipeline, and need to, at a minimum, follow local permitting regulations.

At Friday’s meeting, the City asked PG&E to:

  • Sign an interim agreement that PG&E will refrain from any tree removal activities, including communications with property owners relating to tree removal, within Walnut Creek. The only exception is if a tree poses an imminent, documented threat to PG&E facilities.
  • Comply with City permitting requirements and applicable environmental regulations
  • Work with the City’s arborist to inspect each tree earmarked for removal and evaluate whether the tree does, in fact, pose any danger to the pipeline.

PG&E officials said they will review the agreement over the next several days. In addition, PG&E said it would meet with City representatives to further discuss permitting requirements.

PG&E also agreed to hold community meetings about the Pipeline Pathways program at a future date.

To view maps of where PG&E is proposing to remove the trees and bushes, please click on the link for each city listed below.

Be sure to view the maps to see if your neighborhood is affected by this plan.


starcraft April 12, 2014 at 12:02 PM

So how exactly does pruning the trees help protect the pipeline?

Triple Canopy April 12, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Training a tree to be “small” through pruning reduces the span and depth of its roots. It works on the same principle as “bonsai” trees.

anon April 12, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Ground over pipelines must be cleared for access. Move trees,shrubs, fences, concrete .

anon April 12, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Is there a map available of the overall path of this pipeline? It’s hard to visualize from all the different small maps.

KJ April 12, 2014 at 3:25 PM

As I understand it, PG&E wants to be able to monitor its pipelines from the air. I guess they assume the FAA is going to allow drones to fly over our cities.

Shouldn’t We The People have a say about whether or not we want unmanned aircraft flying over our heads and homes?

Spanky Fortuna April 12, 2014 at 3:28 PM

It sounds like PG&E has a surplus…

@KJ, #5------no evidence drones to be used April 12, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Just another conspiracy nutjob.

Chris Kapsalis April 12, 2014 at 3:51 PM

The three trees they want to cut down on our property are Not being cut down. We will not allow it. Sorry PGE.

Suzie April 12, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Thank goodness for small things, I really hope this means we will not lose our concord trees.

Liability April 12, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Who will be liable if the roofs of a tree break a pipeline and there is another San Bruno incident. Everyone will blame

EdiBirsan April 12, 2014 at 5:22 PM

This was my comments on the issue at the last Council meeting where we passed a resolution on the matter of PGE vs the Trees of Concord.

I am concerned about what is coming out from WC’s meeting in regard to trees on private land and their continuing in that regard. I will check on this.

Liability April 12, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Who will be liable if the roots of a tree break a pipeline and there is another San Bruno incident? Everyone will blame PG&E but will not allow them to attempt to avoid it. Some of the trees are more than 40 years old so “pruning” will accomplish nothing.
PG&E has legal access to the properties involved, without anyone’s permission to accomplish what needs to be done. The cities involved need to make the choice between safety and the trees. The may not all have to go, but in imposing additional requirements, the cities need to bear the costs.

KJ April 12, 2014 at 6:24 PM

#7 – How about “low-flying helicopters”? Do you feel more comfortable with them? PG&E has been using them in Novato.

J. April 12, 2014 at 8:35 PM

You’re not supposed to plant things on a utility easement.

Anonalalon April 13, 2014 at 12:41 AM

Chris K, you should’ve checked your easements before moving in. My guess is they want to cut down trees on their utility easement. So sorry.

Mike April 13, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Trees and vegetation had nothing to do with the San Bruno pipeline disaster. It was poor maintenance, corner cutting and improper record keeping on the part of PG&E. PG&E is now trying to cover their fanny by trying to use any excuse for their incompetence and mismanagement. Tree roots will not penetrate a properly manufactured, installed and maintained pipeline.
Don’t fall for this pack of lies by Pacific Graft and Extortion (PG&E).

@25 April 13, 2014 at 1:27 PM

“Mayor Kristina Lawson called the meeting a positive first step, but noted there are many issues to be resolved. “We continue to believe there are better ways to protect the community than arbitrarily chopping down trees and we ask PG&E to review every option, up to, and including, moving the pipeline,” said Lawson.”

How does this genius think they’re going to move the pipeline without disturbing the trees? And where exactly does she think they should put it? Down the middle of the freeway?

Julio April 13, 2014 at 4:43 PM

More whack job ideas. I hope the share holders are paying for this fiasco and not the rate payers which are you and I.

Question: Why was anything allowed to be built over, above or around these pipes?

EdiBirsan April 13, 2014 at 10:42 PM

Question: Why was anything allowed to be built over, above or around these pipes?

Answer: for decades PG&E made no attempt to notice people not to do it or to report to them as soon as they were built because PGE was not doing its due diligence in this manner. Just like the trees and the bushes which PGE ignored and then suddenly everything has to be done last month.

The city does not monitor or require monitoring structures under 120 square feet.

As a note I just walked along Ponderosa and spoke to several people who had structures in their back yard that were 10 to 5 feet from the alleged location of their pipeline. And after they were told that they would have bring them down, the PGE people who came to remove trees said they did not have to move them.

As an aside I saw the remains of some trees that had 23-24 inch diameter trunks that were cut down and the home owner was offered $50 in one case and $100 in another. Really sadly inadequate compensation.

Antler April 14, 2014 at 8:39 PM

It may be that P,G,&E’s major mistake was in publishing ALL AT ONCE the results of their major survey.

I clicked on the Concord link so as to see the full list of trees destined for pruning or removal in that city. The overhead pictures are very clear, and the proposed work delineated well. With a very few exceptions, the proposed items seem quite logical.

I did have sympathy for home owners in three instances (and there might have been more, but I was getting tired). Please refer to the following items and see whether you agree:

(Forgot to note the citation, but it’s on Gill Court…trees between home and a school yard). One can agree that the home owner would want to hide its view of the school buildings and would want vegetation for some shade and sound control. Nevertheless, utility easements and restrictions are clearly printed in ones property deed! In the interest of public relations, might the utility company give the property owner some help in paying for some other type of legal visual shields?

RW-V-4399-14 and RW-V-4401-14 Clearly the developers’ intent in instances such as this was to minimize noise from and view of a freeway or busy street. They did violate easement restrictions, but can there be some compromise? It seems the pipeline could be easily monitored from the freeway/street side.

Personal background on this issue. Our property has two separate P,G,&E easements (gas line laid underneath driveway ….. and a major neighborhood electrical/cable trunk line overhead along another property line); restrictions are described to the most minute detail in the deed.

In the late 1960’s, we had a family party and each of our three young children planted a two-gallon-sized incense cedar tree. One was within 15 feet of the easement. Time passed, and the trees grew perhaps 20 feet taller than the power lines. We received written notice that the trees might pose a hazard to the wires in case they fell, so the power company needed to make an appointment to come do an on-site inspection from our side of the fence. During the appointment, I stated that the tree trunks were not actually within the easement, that the particular variety of tree did not bend very much even in high winds, and that the trees had strong sentimental value to our family. The inspector courteously proposed that one of their arborists come out and give an opinion.

The arborist confirmed my observation about the storm-behavior of that type of tree, but he did point out that one high branch did overhang the easement (going within a few feet of the wires) and could potentially cause a problem. He proposed that they remove that branch back to the trunk (healthier for that species) at P,G&E’s expense. Done!

Note to those of you who have a belligerent attitude: Yes, it is your property. But yes, the easement area overlies your property and you became legally bound to obey those restrictions when you signed the deed.

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