CONCORD -- The city has reached an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric about how to move forward with a plan designed to balance public safety with community character.
"We want to move forward in a very collaborative way and share solutions before any work takes place," said Tom Guarino, who handles government relations for the utility.
The City Council unanimously approved the agreement at the July 22 meting.
Earlier this year, PG&E unveiled a plan to cut down thousands of trees in the East Bay -- including about 730 trees on private and public property in Concord -- that rankled city leaders who said the utility hadn't provided proof that the targeted trees are a safety hazard.
The $500 million Pipeline Pathways Project is a statewide initiative to clear obstructions from the utility company's 6,750 miles of gas lines from Bakersfield to Eureka. PG&E says it needs to remove the trees, shrubs and structures on private and public property to ensure pipeline safety -- a top priority in the aftermath of the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
After the public outcry, PG&E agreed to temporarily put the entire pipeline safety project on hold while it worked with city leaders on how to proceed.
In April, the council adopted a resolution demanding that the utility stop all tree removals in Concord until the utility agreed to discuss adequate mitigation and compensation, reimburse the city and homeowners for costs associated with planting and watering replacement trees, pinpoint the targeted trees and vegetation, and comply with the city's tree protection ordinances and the California Environmental Quality Act.
City managers from Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, Concord and Walnut Creek, representing 19 East Bay cities, joined a committee with PG&E to hammer out the agreement on how to ensure pipeline safety without compromising the environment.
PG&E has agreed to do the following:
Notably, the agreement does not resolve the key dispute -- whether the utility must abide by the cities' tree protection ordinances.
City Manager Valerie Barone pointed out that the agreement doesn't prohibit the city from pursuing legal action to prevent PG&E from cutting down individual trees.
"I think this achieves the issues we had when we passed the resolution," Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister said.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.