By now I expect you have heard about PG&E's Pipeline Pathways Project which proposes to clear all vegetation in a 20-foot swath -- 10 feet on each side of its gas transmission pipeline that runs throughout Contra Costa County, including the city of Pleasant Hill.
PG&E has obliquely asserted public safety as the primary reason for the project.
After many weeks of dialogue between the city staff and PG&E, during which the utility has not exactly been forthcoming, and after an amazing display of corporate indifference toward private property rights and the rule of local law (as excoriated in an editorial of this newspaper posted March 28), PG&E finally shared the details of its plan at the April 7 meeting of the City Council.
And the details are troubling.
PG&E claims that its pipeline may be harmed by tree roots which might grow to wrap around a pipe and then if the tree falls, it might cause a rupture in the pipeline.
The council is, of course, concerned about public safety and asked what efforts PG&E has made to determine any of the trees in Pleasant Hill present a safety problem. It is important to note that as of now, PG&E hasn't actually done any testing or other investigation to determine if any of these tree roots are actually a problem.
So how many trees does PG&E want to remove in Pleasant Hill without a bit of testing or investigation as to harmful impact?
A total of 180 mature and protected trees are proposed for removal -- 95 trees in the city's public right of way and 85 trees on a combination of privately owned property and land controlled by various other public agencies (Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Caltrans and East Bay Regional Parks); 105 trees are proposed for pruning, and 40 bushes and other landscaping are also proposed for removal.
The area of Pleasant Hill most impacted includes Contra Costa Boulevard (from the Pacheco border in the north to Boyd Road in the south), Hookston Road and along the Iron Horse Trail near Lisa Lane.
Imagine the entirety of Contra Costa Boulevard denuded to a concrete thoroughfare, or the residents of Lisa Lane without the shade of the trees they have cultivated over the past 50-plus years.
Say goodbye to the heritage oaks the city took such care to preserve in realigning Buskirk Avenue.
Did I tell you PG&E proposes to replace these vital and mature trees with saplings?
PG&E listened to the concerns of residents and the council on Monday night and acknowledged the previous dialogue had not gone well.
PG&E representatives assured the council that no tree on public property will be removed at this time and that it will sit down with the city staff and reach an agreement with the city before any further action is taken.
As to private property owners, PG&E was not as accommodating.
It would not agree to cease seeking removal of trees on private property but it did acknowledge it would not remove any trees without the permission of the private property owner.
Pleasant Hill has sent letters to impacted property owners advising them to make sure PG&E adheres to permitting requirements for tree removal.
If you have already signed a document granting PG&E consent to remove any trees, immediately contact PG&E and let them know that you are rescinding your consent.
If you do grant consent to PG&E to remove any trees on your private property, I strongly recommend that you confirm in writing with PG&E that it will only remove the trees after submitting a tree removal permit application or exemption request to the city for review and approval.
The good news here is PG&E is now listening, and I remain hopeful we will be able to reach agreement with the utility that will adequately address its safety concerns without negatively impacting the natural beauty of our city.
Further information about Pleasant Hill's position on this project can be obtained from city planner Greg Fuz at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling him at 925-671-5218.
Timothy M. Flaherty is the mayor of Pleasant Hill. Contact him at email@example.com.