Trees and Safe, Reliable and Affordable Energy
Trees are a vital part of California’s natural beauty and habitats. At PG&E, we appreciate the many benefits that greenery brings, but there are significant consequences when vegetation comes into contact with our high voltage electric transmission lines: substantial fire risk, electric grid outages and public safety hazards. In addition, Federal and state law require that we maintain certain distances between our high voltage electric transmission lines and trees.
PG&E is committed to:
- Preserving public safety by preventing fires.
- Preventing electric service disruptions.
- Protecting public safety.
- Communicating frequently with our customers about our vegetation work.
Every year, PG&E inspects every mile of our electric distribution and transmission lines. 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.
PG&E’s Vegetation Management Commitment
PG&E strives to provide regular communications to our customers and property owners regarding work planned in your community. A PG&E representative will make reasonable efforts to be available to discuss plans with property owners, keeping you informed of the need for work, its scope, schedule and follow-up. Specifically, we will:
- Ensure public and employee safety and electric reliability.
- Comply with all applicable laws, regulations and environmental requirements, following industry best practices, standards and guidelines.
- Attempt to contact you before performing vegetation management work on your property. However, emergencies may require us to proceed with work even if we are unable to make contact.
- Consider requests to perform the work at a date and time preferred by the property owner.
- Provide a copy of the PG&E easement document regarding the property, which describes the rights and obligations of the property owner and PG&E (upon request).
- Make a PG&E customer advocate available in a timely manner (upon request).
We want to work with you in a way that is reasonable and respectful of your property, while also fulfilling our mutual obligation to protect public safety, prevent fires and mitigate the risk of power outages. If there is a situation when a property owner may disagree with us, our goal is to diligently work to reach a mutually agreeable solution.
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 pge.com/RightTreeRightPlace 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.
Help us help you by reviewing your 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.
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 as many as 50 million people across the northeastern U.S. In response, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved new standards as recommended by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. U.S. utilities, including PG&E, strengthened vegetation management programs to ensure:
- We properly maintain transmission line rights-of-way for the safety of the public and our employees.
- If a tree is identified with the potential to interfere with the safe operation of our transmission lines, we evaluate and develop the best course of action on a tree-by-tree basis.
- When we do need to remove trees that are within our transmission right-of-way, we use industry recognized best practices to preserve the surrounding land.
Establishing a Low Growing Plant Community
Our goal is to create low growing plant communities in transmission rights-of-way for the safety of all of us.
- We selectively prune and remove vegetation that has the potential to interfere with the safe operation of our power lines.
- 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.
- With proper management, the low growing vegetation will eventually become the primary plants in the rights-of-way, reducing the need for tree work.
- 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.
Selective Tree Removal
Prior to selectively removing a tree, PG&E attempts to avoid removal by pruning vegetation. Our arborists and other forestry professionals evaluate the tree according to:
- Projected height at maturity
- Projected growth rate
- Proximity to our transmission line
In accordance with industry standards and best practices, including those from the American National Standards Institute, the International Society of Arboriculture and the National Arbor Day Foundation, we develop an action plan specific for the tree in question. Specifically, our experts take the following into consideration:
- Tree removal is the recommended industry practice when severe tree pruning would otherwise be required to achieve necessary line clearance.
- The International Society of Arboriculture, National Arbor Day Foundation, and Utility Arborists Association do not support "topping" trees, or the removal of the top portion of a tree to create distance between a tree and a transmission line.
- The current and future health of the tree. A dead tree poses the threat of injury or damage if it falls on people, property or power lines.
PG&E is nationally recognized as a Tree Line USA Utility by the National Arbor Day Foundation. 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
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 do the following:
- Partner with biologists, geologists, arborists, scientists and others to prepare environmental assessments for the area under evaluation, including studying a specific tree, surrounding plant and animal species, soil impacts, nearby waterways and water quality.
- Use the latest light and radar technology (LiDAR) to remotely determine areas potentially needing work.
- Use environmental reports and maps to identify sensitive species and water issues.
- Develop environmental plans to protect plants, animals and natural resources near work areas.
- Work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other key agencies to develop site specific programs to protect the surrounding land.
- Environmental training with crews performing the tree work.
Highlights of Working in Sensitive Areas
To further ensure the health of the area beneath and around high voltage electric transmission lines, we strive to enhance the overall health of the rights-of-way by:
- Performing work with hand tools to minimize bare soil and prevent erosion.
- Accessing sites on existing roads or on foot to avoid using heavy equipment and 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 river banks and the habitat of nearby species.