Tree-Pruning FAQs

Get answers to common questions about our tree-pruning service.

When will the tree crews arrive?

Tree crews usually arrive three to six weeks after a vegetation inspector has patrolled an area and left a "door hanger" notice. At times, scheduling conflicts, emergencies or other interruptions occur that may alter the schedule. If the work is urgent, crews may arrive in a matter of days. For a better time estimate, call the contact person listed on the door hanger.

How often are areas patrolled?

The Vegetation Management Department patrols every mile of every line every year. Other departments within PG&E may also patrol areas for other necessary maintenance work.

What preparations should I make before the pruning begins?

  • Move vehicles and lawn or garden equipment from the area where the trees are to be pruned.
  • Unlock your gate when you know the crews are in the area.
  • Make sure animals are leashed or secured.
  • Discuss tree pruning or removal options with the inspector.
  • Work with the inspector to discuss directional pruning.

How can I help?

Be cooperative with the inspectors and tree pruners. They will try to answer your questions the best they can. When the crews arrive, they need free and clear access to the trees to be pruned. They also appreciate having animals restrained, so that they can work without interruption.

Which overhead power lines are you trying to protect with vegetation pruning?

Typically, we clear high-voltage overhead power lines of vegetation only. These are the lines in the highest position on power poles. The words "High Voltage" are marked on poles or cross-arms with high voltage lines. We prune secondary lines (those below the transformer) only if the lines are strained or rubbing the tree.

A tree is growing into my service drop. Isn't this a hazard?

The service drop is the electrical line that runs from the utility pole to your home or business and is typically not high voltage. This line only serves you and is not typically pruned by PG&E. If you think tree branches are straining or abrading your service drop, phone 1-800-PGE-5000. Be careful clearing trees near service drops, because, although the lines may be low voltage, an electrical contact could result in injury or death.

PG&E Equipment

Does pruning spread disease?

PG&E requires contractors to disinfect their tools between locations if there is a known disease in the area (as determined or recommended by state and local agencies).

Do I have to give you permission to prune?

We make every effort to notify you when our inspection staff identifies tree pruning or pole clearing work to be done on your property. Your permission is not required, because state law mandates that we maintain our lines, and keep them hazard free.

Aren't you trespassing if you come onto my property?

The utility is legally required to maintain its facilities. Utility easements and rights of ways are often conveyed in the deed to a property. In addition, as a condition of electric service to your home, you must allow PG&E access to your property for maintenance at all reasonable times. Therefore, we have the right to access our facilities, as necessary, to properly maintain our facilities. If you have questions, call 1-800-PGE-5000.

What about wood debris left from pruning?

After pruning, PG&E’s tree crews do their best to restore the work location to the condition it was in prior to their arrival. We remove and chip branches less than 4 inches in diameter where accessible. We cut larger limbs and trunks into more manageable lengths and leave them for property owners to use as firewood or dispose of as they wish–after all, it’s your tree.

If you do not want to keep this wood, some options for disposal include contacting local service organizations, Fire Safe Councils, green waste facilities, wood-cutters and haulers. In remote rural locations, we lop and scatter wood debris in accordance with forest practices rules to avoid excessive fuel build-up.

Can I get wood chips?

Yes. Our contractors are always looking for customers to accept wood chips. This is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the wood chips. Wood chips make great mulch, keep weeds down and keep trees moist. Please call 1-800-743-5000 if you are interested in this service. A load of chips is about 10 cubic yards of mixed tree material.

How do you decide which trees to prune?

Trees that require pruning are those that currently, or will within a year, encroach on high-voltage power lines. Tree inspectors assess the location of trees and their growth rate. In addition, we take into consideration limb configuration and potential wind conditions. If you believe that a tree poses a danger to lines, please call 1-800-PGE-5000 to arrange an inspection.

Why would you prune my trees and not my neighbor's tree?

Usually it's because your neighbor's tree does not affect the power lines or the lines are not high-voltage lines.

How do you decide how much to prune?

A qualified utility forester prescribes the amount and type of pruning necessary, based on:

  • Tree growth and structure
  • Wind sway
  • Line sag
  • Species of tree
  • Environmental factors
  • Irrigation
  • Proximity of the tree to a line and line configuration.

As always, we also include a reasonable margin of safety above the absolute-minimum clearance requirements.

What is a line-clearance tree contractor?

A line-clearance tree contractor is a tree-pruning company that has an ongoing line-clearance safety program as defined by the federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This program must include ongoing training, equipment maintenance and inspection programs to ensure tools are non-conductive for workers who routinely work near high-voltage power lines.

Many independent tree pruners claim they are "line-clearance certified" because they once worked for a qualified line-clearance tree company. However, certification is not transferable between companies, unless the company is line-clearance qualified. PG&E employs only qualified line-clearance tree contractors to work around the high voltage power lines.

PLEASE NOTE: A homeowner should never hire a private tree pruner to work within 10 feet of high-voltage power lines.

Are contractors certified arborists?

No. Arborists who are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture are knowledgeable and qualified in the care and maintenance of trees. This designation does not certify them to work close to power lines.

What about tree houses?

If any part of a tree holding a tree house is within 10 feet of a power line, it is too close, and the risk of electrocution to children playing in the tree house is very high. Make sure that children cannot reach the lines with a pole or any other object. If in doubt, call 1-800-PGE-5000 to have the situation checked.

Why won't the utility put lines underground and spare the trees?

Undergrounding of lines sounds like an aesthetic and safe alternative to overhead lines, and sometimes it is. But undergrounding comes with an extremely high price tag, coupled with longer outages and more difficult repairs in the event of a power failure. PG&E supports a program, Rule 20, which has been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, to underground existing overhead lines in areas where there will be general public benefits from the undergrounding as recommended by local counties and cities.

Why did I receive this line clearance refusal letter when I did not refuse the tree work?

At the time of pruning for the overhead electrical conductors our contract tree crews are required to attain sufficient clearance to last through the next routine prune. Your refusal to allow us to achieve a sufficient clearance to maintain compliance will jeopardize public safety and electric reliability. Additionally, if a customer does not allow access to our tree crews for this required work, we consider that a refusal.

Why did I receive a Hire Your Own Tree Contractor letter when I did not refuse the tree work?

Someone at your property indicated that they would rather hire their own contractor to perform the tree clearance work. Additionally, If a customer does not allow access to our tree crews for this required work, we consider that a refusal. The letter was sent to express our concerns and explain the dangers and liability of hiring your own contractor. Additionally, if a customer does not allow access to our tree crews for this required work, we consider that a refusal.

Why did I receive a letter about my Palm tree?

While we can frequently prune trees to re-direct growth away from the power lines, this is not possible with Palm trees once they are within 10 feet of the high voltage lines. Palm trees within 10 feet can be a frequent source of outages in your community during storms and wind events. Our arborists have determined that the pruning required will be below the center initiating growth and the palm will probably die.

We offer two options for our customers when palms are within 10 feet of the high voltage lines:

  • PG&E will remove the tree as close to the ground as practical and leave the wood at the site. The stump will not be ground.
  • PG&E will prune or top the palm tree (leaving the wood at the site) to make it safe for your contractor to complete the removal.

A palm may be moved by the owner before it is with-in 10ft of the high voltage power lines.