The Environmental Committee works to protect the watershed and to educate the public on forestry issues, erosion control, hazardous waste, recycling, and other issues. We also monitor government policies and procedures.
PG&E is a high priority for the Environmental Committee due to its massive and destructive felling of trees to prevent wildfires when unsafe, unreliable, antiquated equipment is the fundamental cause of the fires. From working on legislation and a new Franchise Agreement for PG&E in the County to in-depth research and analysis to support work with agencies affecting PG&E and helping folks protect their trees from PG&E’s contractors, this keeps the group busy. We work with a State-wide Utility Wildfire Prevention Taskforce on these issues.
Your help is needed.
Visit https://endpowerlinefires.com for more information.
River & Road Clean Up
with Save Our Shores
Annual Environmental Town Hall
Felton Community Hall
First Saturday of the month
Second Saturday if the first Saturday is a holiday weekend.
10:30 am at VWC Office at Highlands Park Senior Center
On Zoom and in-person. Email for Zoom info.
Meetings are open to the public.
Call 338-6578 or email for information.
Become a Member
or Make a Donation!
The Valley Women’s Club Environmental Committee will present a letter and the current total number of supporters at the Santa Cruz County Supervisor’s meeting at 9:30am Tuesday 6/14/16. Please support our aim to slow down the PG&E process and allow citizen input. Graham Hill RD is a beautiful forested entry to our Valley—help us keep it that way safely!
We need additional supporters at the meeting to give our valley a voice! Please kindly read and sign the PG&E Tree Cutting Petition.
Photo by Kevin Collins of Ponderosa Pines along Graham Hill Rd. with PG&E’s gas pipeline markers. May 2016
Letters and petitions to the Board of Supervisors and other local government leaders, defining concerns about the removal of trees along pressurized gas lines by PG&E:
Environmental Committee for the SLV
VALLEY WOMEN’S CLUB of San Lorenzo Valley
PO Box 574, Ben Lomond, CA 95005
April 4, 2016
Supervisor Bruce McPherson
County of Santa Cruz
701 Ocean St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Thank you for your interest in our objections to the massive tree removal project that PG&E is undertaking throughout its service area, including here in Santa Cruz County. We strongly oppose the plan and hope our County can help stop it. It is receiving significant resistance. Our objections go far beyond the aesthetic aspects of losing thousands of trees, although those aspects are truly important for urban, suburban and rural areas. Trees are vital to our well-being; they improve air quality, provide shade, reduce pollution, raise property values, and add grace and beauty to any neighborhood. They are important in rural and wilderness areas because they protect and hold the soil, reducing erosion and slides; they shade the soil and waterways; they aid in the absorption and retention of water, reducing flooding; they are crucial habitat for wildlife of every genus.
The other issues demonstrate a disturbing mismanagement of priorities, including the fact that PG&E is delaying more important safety inspections and protections by focusing on the trees, and their rationale for the removing the trees is faulty. Our research demonstrates that removing trees is ineffective in protecting gas pipelines and is even detrimental to the very pipelines they are seeking to protect.
When you look at decades of gas leaks and explosions (Wikipedia has a list of pipeline accidents in the 21st century), none are related to tree roots damaging pipelines – not even the catastrophic disaster in San Bruno that has stimulated this program. What caused the problems were anomalies in the pipelines (imperfections and defects), incorrect operations, malfunction of pressure control equipment, corrosion, cracks in seams and damage to pipes from heavy equipment or landslides.
What makes a minor problem into a major problem? Failure to quickly shut off the supply of gas, as in San Bruno. Are there strategically placed shut-off valves at regular intervals? Not necessarily, and there should be. Before prioritizing the controversial removal of trees, the pipelines should all be examined internally for corrosion, defects and thinning, so specific problems may be quickly and appropriately addressed — with, in the words of PG&E, “surveys using sensitive detection equipment, in-line inspections and pressure tests.”
Those two steps alone would reduce the likelihood of accidents meaningfully.
Why not remove the trees to “access” the pipelines? Because it is unnecessary. If the lines are thoroughly inspected and anomalies addressed, then there will be few leaks. If there is a leak or explosion then immediate shut down of the gas supply will reduce the damage and threat to life and property.
Locally, removing the trees along Graham Hill Rd., with its renowned unique and extremely sandy soils, would most definitely assure erosion and gullying, undermining and damaging the pipelines. In addition the planned timing of the removals would endanger nesting birds, and the tree replacement plans neither guarantee that seed sources are local nor that the trees and plants be healthy and free of a Phytophthora fungus that has been recently documented to spread fatal disease into restoration/mitigation sites. Too many of the trees are of significant, old-growth size and age as well.
Why keep the trees? Because research shows that the roots actually protect the pipelines by soaking up the water from the soil around the pipes, helping dry it out, reducing corrosion. The roots provide stability in an earthquake. The roots and their trees help prevent soil erosion and slides that might undermine the pipeline causing it to break.
We strongly feel that the entire County needs to know about the tree-removal plans through public hearings, so that individual property owners will not feel frightened or pressured into allowing their trees to be cut down unnecessarily. We request that the Supervisors speak out against the plan and strongly advocate for expedited inspections of gas lines, especially those that were scheduled for tree removal, and for improved
gas shut-off capability instead.
Thank you for considering our concerns and our proposals.
Nancy Macy and Cathleen O’Connell, Co-Chairs, VWC’s Environmental Committee for the SLV
Rosalind Alley, President Valley Women’s Club
Barbara Hanson, Board Member, Valley Women’s Club
Gillian Greensite, Executive Committee Member, Sierra Club Santa Cruz Group
Subcommittee members: Paul Norcutt, Kevin Collins, Charles Baughman, Don Alley, Suzanne Schletter, Susan Ford, Catherine O’Kelly, Dominique Herbert, Nina Moore, Jennifer Hennig, Jennifer Parks, Kirsten Hill, Robin Brune and others.
Dear County Supervisors, City Council Members, and City and County staff,
I live on a property through which a PG&E natural gas transmission line runs. The transmission line, as with all transmission lines in Santa Cruz County, has been recently tested by PG&E and is in great working order. Despite this, PG&E wants to kill four of our trees (along with thousands of others throughout the County) that grow close to the line as a way to ensure our health and safety.
My many conversations with PG&E and the research I’ve read about this have demonstrated that trees have never significantly damaged transmission lines nor have they ever inhibited access to transmission lines in any significant way during an emergency throughout PG&E’s history.
I am not alone in my deep concern about the negative impacts that PG&E’s misguided actions will have on our community, wildlife, water, air, and long-term health and safety, especially during this time of intensifying climate change.
I would love to see the County and the four cities within the County coordinate to create a framework agreement with PG&E that makes sure our needs and our local and state environmental laws/ordinances are met. PG&E is legally required to meet these laws/ordinances, despite what they may say!
PG&E plans to start killing our community’s tree within the next month so the need to act now is urgent.
As you may be aware, the City of Palo Alto is working on such a framework agreement, modeled after one that a cooperative of East Bay cities created. This is how things have gone in Palo Alto so far, according to Catherine Martineau, the Executive Director of the nonprofit Canopy:
“There was a lot of activity at the end of last year which culminated with a community meeting where PG&E gave a presentation to neighbors and other stakeholders, City of Palo Alto elected officials and staff, and Canopy representatives. Following that meeting the City told PG&E to:
1. Not cut any trees
2. Stop entering into separate agreements with private property owners
3. Cancel any prior agreement they had signed
4. Work with City staff on a model agreement that would incorporate specific guidelines for potential removal and mitigation”
I recommend that you do the same thing asap and then work on creating an agreement that will meet our community’s needs.
Here is a brief synopsis, from Walter Passmore, the City of Palo Alto’s Urban Forester, of what their agreement will do:
“All the trees proposed for removal (public and private) will be reviewed by the City of Palo Alto with the intent to minimize the number to only those that present a clear and verified safety concern that cannot be otherwise mitigated. The framework agreement describes the level of proof or justification PG&E needs to provide.”
Walter has let me know that you can be in touch with Jessica Mullan (Jessica.Mullan@CityofPaloAlto.org) to request a copy of their draft agreement to see what it entails. If she is not able to provide a copy, then I recommend asking the City of Walnut Creek or the City of Hayward folks to see their agreements. I also recommend being in touch with their attorneys for guidance on how we can proceed efficiently and effectively.
Supervisors Leopold and McPherson are in conversation about this as is County Counsel, Dana McRae, so the ball has already begun to roll.
Please let me know how you plan to move forward and if there is anyway I (and my fellow concerned and impacted residents) may be of help.
Thank you for your time and attention to this critical matter.
~ Collette Streight
Dear Supervisors, Council Members, and City and County Staff,
I strongly agree with Collette Streight’s recommendations and also encourage you to take action toward creating an agreement to reduce the number of trees that PG&E plans to kill. I am a property owner who has met with PG&E several times about this issue and can say that it is very intimidating to feel like I’m on my own trying to figure out what my rights are and what is the best thing to do. After meeting with PG&E representatives 3 times, attending a community meeting, plus doing a lot of internet research on my own, I am not convinced the trees they want to remove from my property are the safety issue they claim. They have made a lot of mistakes in their analysis of my property and they don’t give straight answers to my questions. I wonder if I’m being manipulated to sign an agreement I don’t want to sign, but I don’t really know what I can legally do. Even though they told me that they won’t kill any trees without my signature, another friend was told that if he continued to refuse to let them kill his trees it would “go to legal.” When I told them I wanted a more accurate analysis of my trees because of the errors of the first analysis they did, they sent a team to survey my yard, but the workers said they were only there to map and measure the easement, not the pipeline location near the tree I was questioning. That made me wonder if they’re trying to find something to leverage their pressure on me to sign an agreement letting them kill the trees. After surveying my friend’s yard, he was told that his house and parts of his patio were on the easement (I believe he bought the house like that, same as me). Every time they send someone to talk to me they send three people, which is also a bit intimidating.
I am also concerned that my neighbors, who have never lived in Santa Cruz, have signed the agreement to let PG&E kill their trees without really knowing the true cost of losing the many benefits those trees provide the whole neighborhood (wildlife habitat- including migrating birds, canopy protection and erosion control of Rodeo Creek, carbon sequestration, etc. Even though PG&E says they will pay property owners money to “replace” the trees they kill, there is no follow up to ensure that more trees are planted on private property, so the mitigation they say they are offering is not enforced. My neighbors could just take the money and run, as I was advised to do by some people I’ve spoken with. That’s why I think it’s important for our local government to set guidelines with PG&E and be sure the overall environmental impacts are taken into consideration.
Thank you for your time and efforts in this matter! I am so thankful that there is a group of people coming together to investigate and prevent needless killing of trees. I feel some sense of hope that we can move toward a more sustainable way of living on Earth!!
BARBARA HANSON, VWC Board Member, Online Petition – over 1,000 signatures gathered!