Local News Matters weekly newsletter
Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.
The Lafayette City Council on Monday will decide whether to spend $50,000 to hire experts to assess how many trees PG&E needs to cut down to access its own gas lines running through the city.
In 2014, PG&E started the Pipeline Pathways project, which entailed removing trees adjacent to its gas transmission pipelines, so first responders could have easier access to potential problems and crews could have better access to pipelines for inspections.
The utility giant told Lafayette officials the city would have to cut down more than 1,200 of its trees. Which, as one could imagine, didn’t go over very well with some members of the community.
In 2015, PG&E updated its list, saying it would only need to chop down 272 trees. That was also the year they renamed their project the Community Pipelines Safety Initiative. Two years later, the city and PG&E reached a tentative agreement that the utility would pay mitigation fees for each tree removed, plant new trees, and would receive approval from the city before cutting trees down.
In 2018 — after being sued (along with the city) by a group called Save Lafayette Trees — PG&E decided it only needed to cut down 207 of Lafayette’s trees. Then the utility filed for bankruptcy, sued Lafayette over its previous tree agreement, and everything was put on hold.
PG&E still wants to cut down at least 200 trees in Lafayette, and the city finally wants to clarify the details as part of settlement discussions over that lawsuit. The two parties began meeting earlier this year, discussing an agreement by which both sides would bring in their own gas pipeline and tree experts to jointly develop criteria for a risk assessment evaluation of the trees in question.
The process “allows both parties to have a say in how the trees are evaluated and provides another opportunity to minimize the removal of trees while still ensuring the safety of the pipeline,” a staff report for Monday’s council meeting says. “If this process is successful, it could result in the resolution of the city’s pending litigation with PG&E.”
The Lafayette City Council meets virtually at 6 p.m. Monday and can be seen on the city’s YouTube channel.