July 13–LAFAYETTE — PG&E has agreed to delay uprooting hundreds of trees until after a public workshop this fall to address residents’ concerns.
The utility had planned to remove 113 trees on public property in Lafayette and 245 trees in Briones Regional Park in this past spring and early summer part of Pacific Gas & Electric’s $500 million Community Pipeline Safety Initiative, PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said in an interview Wednesday. In addition, he said an undetermined number of trees on private property would be removed.
Lafayette city officials Monday discussed holding a final public workshop this fall to address residents’ concerns about safety issues and uprooting hundreds of trees along public trails for a PG&E pipeline project.
Smith said that PG&E agreed to delay the project for a public workshop, tentatively set for Sept. 10.
Michael Dawson, who founded Save Lafayette Trees with wife Gina Dawson, said PG&E “continues to play games” on the tree removals and with the number of trees it plans to uproot, he told the City Council at its meeting Tuesday. Save Lafayette Trees estimates a total of 479 trees would be removed.
Dawson noted that there are more than 150 separate concerns submitted by residents for the September workshop. Residents sent queries about topics such as: safety risk; tree roots; first-responder access; pipeline testing and patrolling; exposed pipelines; valves; and other pipeline infrastructure.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Gina Dawson said the bottom line of the issue was “trust.”
“There’s too many concerns, there’s too many unanswered questions, and basically, we’ve lost trust in the safety operation,” Gina Dawson said.
In a Lafayette staff report dated July 9, the city is asking PG&E for the following before the workshop: Maps showing the location of the trees; plans for trees scheduled for removal; location of proposed trees to be planted; and an acceptable restoration plan for the removal of public trees.
The statewide project aims to clear trees, brush and structures that could be potential hazards for first-responders from accessing natural gas transmission lines during emergencies or natural disasters.
PG&E has been working on the pipeline project in Contra Costa County since 2014 and has completed work in more than 26 communities, according to Smith. Lafayette is the last city on the project list.
“We have engaged with the community multiple times and with multiple forums on the issues,” Smith said. “We’ve answered literally hundreds of questions over the past year. We look forward to yet another opportunity after the many opportunities to address public safety needs and first-responder access.”
In March 2017, Lafayette approved an agreement with PG&E to remove the trees, including those along the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail and the Lafayette Reservoir Rim Trial.
But in June 2017, Save Lafayette Trees sued, seeking to force the city to rescind the approval. Save Lafayette Trees alleged that cutting down trees would not improve public safety and contended the city did not evaluate the potential environmental impact of uprooting the trees. In December 2017, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Steven Austin dismissed the suit. The ruling is now on appeal.
Save Lafayette Trees also sued East Bay Regional Park District, seeking to void the agreement in Briones Regional Park. A court hearing was held June 28, and a ruling is expected within 90 days of the hearing.
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