Trees and Safe, Reliable and Affordable Energy

PG&E's Commitment to Vegetation Management

In August 2003, an overgrown tree in Ohio came into contact with high voltage electric transmission lines, causing a major regional power outage that affected nearly 50 million people across the northeastern U.S. In response, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved new vegetation management standards as recommended by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. U.S. utilities, including PG&E, also strengthened their vegetation management programs to ensure:

  • Proper maintenance of transmission line rights-of-way for the safety of the public and our employees.
  • Careful evaluation of each tree on a case-by-case basis to identify potential interference with the safe operation of our transmission lines
  • Stringent use of industry-recognized best practices to preserve the surrounding land when tree removal within our transmission right-of-way is unavoidable.

Trees are a vital part of California’s natural beauty and habitats and PG&E appreciates the many benefits that greenery offers to communities. Significant consequences can occur, however, when vegetation comes into contact with our high voltage electric transmission lines creating substantial fire risk, electric grid outages and public safety hazards. PG&E is nationally recognized as a Tree Line USA Utility by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

What Can I Exect from PG&E?

Every year, PG&E inspects every mile of our electric distribution and transmission lines – more than 134,000 miles annually. To ensure we are able to complete these inspections and do any follow up work, we may need to access our facilities through your property. Our Vegetation Management team is committed to ensuring the safety and reliability of our electric power network through:
PG&E’s vegetation management team strives to provide regular communications to our customers and property owners regarding vegetation-related work planned in your community. A PG&E representative will make reasonable efforts to be available to discuss plans with property owners. Specifically, we will:
  • Attempt to inform you of the need for the work—its scope, schedule and follow-up.
  • Contact you before performing work on your property. Emergencies, however, may require us to proceed even if we are unable to make contact.
  • Provide a timely response to your concern from a qualified utility forester.
  • Show respect to you and your property while performing this work.
  • Make a PG&E customer advocate available in a timely manner (upon request).

Screening Process

We have a thorough environmental evaluation process, which includes working with biologists, geologists, soil scientists and arborists – as well as state and federal agencies – to screen for:

  • Rare plants and animals
  • Protected areas
  • Bird nesting seasons
  • Watersheds and nearby rivers, streams and creeks
  • Erosion minimization
  • Soil stability

Evaluation Process

Well-managed transmission corridors can provide important habitat and migration paths for birds, small animals and low growing plant species, as well as recreational green space such as biking and walking paths (see the Bramble and Byrnes study). To accomplish this, we:

  • Use the latest light and radar technology (LiDAR) to remotely identify areas potentially needing work.
  • Consult environmental reports and maps to identify sensitive species and water issues.
  • Partner with biologists, geologists, arborists, scientists and others to prepare environmental assessments for identified areas needing evaluation, including studying a specific tree, surrounding plant and animal species, soil impacts, nearby waterways and water quality.
  • Develop environmental plans to protect plants, animals and natural resources in environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other key agencies to develop site-specific programs to protect environmentally sensitive areas.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas

We strive to enhance the overall health of the rights-of-way in environmentally sensitive areas beneath and around high voltage electric transmission lines by:

  • Performing work in a way that minimizes bare soil and prevents erosion (using hand tools or other special equipment).
  • Accessing sites on existing roads or on foot to avoid using heavy equipment to preserve the surroundings.
  • Retaining significant native, low growing ground cover to defend against erosion.
  • Where reasonable and safe to do so, maintaining a tree canopy over waterways to safeguard riverbanks and the habitat of nearby species.
  • Providing direction to crews on steps to address identified site-specific environmental or species issues.

Our goal is to create low-growing plant communities in transmission rights-of-way to ensure safety for everyone.

  • We select the appropriate management technique to address vegetation that has the potential to grow into or otherwise interfere with the safe operation of our power lines.
  • In wildland areas, we preserve low growing grasses, herbs and woody shrubs to create a meadow-like setting, which has been shown to enhance wildlife habitat and the inhabitance of birds, deer and other small animals.
  • In urban areas, we work with property owners to identify low growing plants and bushes that will not grow tall enough to interfere with power lines.
  • When appropriate, we use herbicides to maintain sustainable, low growing diverse plant communities. These applications are strictly regulated and carefully managed by a Pest Control Advisor licensed by the Department of Pesticide Regulations, a division of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Helpful Tips for Property Owners

  • Plant the right tree in the right place by selecting trees that will not interfere with power lines. For tree planting strategies and tree species ideas, visit or visit Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute’s SelecTree.
  • Work with us to provide access to electric facilities and ensure all pets and animals are safely away from the area while workers are present.
  • Consult with a certified arborist for landscaping near power lines. Before choosing a tree to plant near power lines, please visit the SelecTree Utility Precautions page.

Help us help you by reviewing our mutual rights and responsibilities. If you have any concerns about needed tree work near power lines, please contact us. We can arrange for an arborist to evaluate the safety of the vegetation and power lines on your property.