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Several Environmental Committee members have focused enormous energy into providing the County staff with legal rationale that will enable them to control any agreement with PG&E rather than just following what other counties or cities have done. In essence not allowing PG&E to continue removing trees, but to prevent ANY tree removals until each individual tree has been proven to be a safety risk and until PG&E complies with all local, state and federal environmental regulations.
This was accomplished by the incredible in-depth research that Paul Norcutt has done. He looked into Federal, State and local documents relating to pipeline safety, lawsuits, and all sorts of regulations — and found significant legal policies and regulations, along with letters and other information to back up our statements. Way to go, Paul! Kevin Collins has been reading all the transcripts from the lawsuit by the Feds against PG&E for their failure to comply to regulations that let to the San Bruno tragedy, and that has helped too. Chuck Baughman’s visit to the trees with Oak tree expert Al Keuter brought out PG&E’s numerous errors in identifying tree species. Jennifer’s legal expertise enabled us to evaluate the relevance of the documents Paul found, so that solidified effort.
The next step is to add our voices to those who have reached out to Assembly Member Mark Stone and State Senator Bill Monning, asking them to help intervene with the California Public Utilities Commission, to forestall further tree removals.
The following information was presented to the County and will be presented to our State representatives as well…
VALLEY WOMEN’S CLUB’S ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEE AND CONCERNED CITIZENS OF SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
IMPORTANT POINTS ABOUT, AND OBJECTIONS TO, THE PG&E “COMMUNITY PIPELINE SAFETY INITIATIVE”
We question the validity of the professed necessity of removing thousands of trees along PG&E’s pressurized natural gas pipelines, and we believe that PG&E, by not following applicable environmental laws has failed to properly assess and address significant potential adverse consequences of the removal of the trees. Nor has it provided any of their research (if any) in this regard for public review. In addition, PG&E’s leak-response processes apparently disregard Federal pipeline safety regulations; if Federal rules are followed, gas is turned off, removing any issue regarding living tree roots limiting access or slowing down the process.
The County and State should prevent any tree cutting until and unless PG&E files a complete and transparent plan that is subject to all environmental laws and public input that any other entity performing a mass cutting of trees would be required to provide.
The stated reason that PG&E wants to cut down the trees is to have “rapid access” to the pipeline for “safety reasons,” however they have not substantiated any safety threat from the living trees. Safety is most directly impacted by shut-off valves and “piggable” pipelines.
There is no reason that PG&E should be permitted to continue cutting down trees as a part of this Initiative, until and unless the State and County, and the public, are all provided with specific data as to the threat posed by each specific tree. In the event such proof is provided, then any tree removal must be subject to public input and all applicable laws.