Tree work near distribution lines

There are two types of power lines: distribution and transmission. Both can be dangerous. Distribution lines are thinner and more likely to be near your home.

Power outages—which can be caused when power lines come into contact with trees—disrupt electric service to homes, businesses and places that provide essential community services, such as hospitals. By pruning or removing trees when necessary, we help prevent outages and keep our communities safe.

Tree debris management

PG&E and our tree contractors do not have the authority to remove wood because the trees on your land are your property. As a courtesy, tree crews cut larger limbs into more manageable lengths and leave wood on-site for customer use. They also chip woody debris, including dead material, up to 4 inches in diameter wherever accessible, or follow best-management practices established for safe, environmentally responsible debris disposal.

Steps we take when pruning trees near distribution lines

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Communication is key

PG&E's highest priority is public safety and we engage our customers with a robust communication process. Personal notifications include:

  • Automated phone calls
  • Door hangers
  • Letters
  • Phone calls
  • In-person visits
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
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Tree safety inspections are vital

Trees that require pruning are those that are likely to break clearance requirements within the next year. Most of our tree safety inspectors are utility foresters with degrees in forestry, biology, horticulture or related fields. Before marking trees in need of pruning, they consider a range of factors:

  • Type of tree
  • Wind sway potentially affecting tree and power line
  • Environmental factors such as dead, dying or diseased vegetation from bark beetle infestation or drought-related impacts
  • Utility equipment that requires specific tree and ground safety clearances

We inspect all 81,000 miles of our distribution lines every year.

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We identify trees that are potential safety hazards

If a tree needs work to meet clearance requirements, we mark it with paint. This indicates that it will be pruned in the coming weeks. Tree work is generally done by our certified tree contractors at no cost to you. Since state law requires that we maintain our lines and keep them free of hazards, the property owner's permission is not required.

Utility tree work uses directional pruning, a method recommended by the International Society of Arboriculture, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Arbor Day Foundation. Directional pruning reduces growth towards the power lines and encourages growth away from the lines. Trees pruned in this way are less susceptible to pests and diseases. They may appear unbalanced, but if they are healthy, they will thrive and the appearance will soften over time. Directional pruning allows trees to coexist safely with power lines.

If you see a tree with marks on it and have questions, please call us at 1-800-743-5000.

When trees are a safety hazard and cannot be pruned effectively without significant impact to their health or shape, they need to be removed. Tree work is done by our certified contractors at no cost to you. Trees on your property identified as a public safety risk are marked with an "X" indicating that they will be removed in the coming weeks. For trees that we identified, we will dispose of the branches less than 4 inches in diameter and will leave the larger wood on your property for your use as firewood or to dispose of because you are the owner of the tree. Should you choose to replant, learn about planting the right tree in the right place.

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Only professionals do the tree work

Our well-trained crews usually arrive three to six weeks after an inspector has patrolled an area and possibly left a notice about the tree work. If it is urgent, crews may begin work sooner.

Who Will Work on My Trees and Why Can’t I Do This Myself?


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Who Will Work on My Trees and Why Can’t I Do This Myself?



Audio description and transcript also available for this video.

Access an audio descriptive version
Download a transcript (PDF, 21 KB)