PG&E's plan to cut down scores of trees in the East Bay has landed with a thud as a number of residents in Lafayette want the utility to put away the chainsaws.
As part of its community pipeline safety initiative, PG&E wants to cut down a number of trees located within 10 feet of high pressure gas transmission lines. The utility said the trees need to be removed to allow first responders access in case of a pipeline rupture during an earthquake of other emergency, but Michael and Gina Dawson of the group Save Lafayette Trees have sued to stop the tree chopping, arguing that the utility has its safety priorities backward.
Michael and Gina Dawson believe the utility should be focused on priorities such as an exposed gas pipeline that runs along the Lafayette-Moraga Trail or the lack of automatic shutoff valves in Lafayette.
"It's brought nothing but a lot of confusion, frustration to communities, not that feeling of pipeline safety, which is why we started this," Gina Dawson said. "We don't trust now the pipeline beneath us."
PG&E said it is aware of and evaluating the exposed gas pipeline along the trail.
The utility's safety engineers said the trees are the first priority because the trees can't be blocking access to a high pressure gas pipeline, according to PG&E.
PG&E's plan calls for about 200 trees within Lafayette city limits and about 240 more in Briones Regional Park to be removed. The utility has performed similar projects in other communities statewide.
Residents of Lafayette submitted about 150 questions and concerns to PG&E regarding the trees and pipeline safety in general. The utility responded with a 71-page document.
The city of Lafayette on Monday will facilitate a meeting with PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the utility. Monday's meeting is slated for 4 p.m. at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center.