PG&E's Updated Tree Cutting Schedule

On November 25, PG&E announced further tree cutting work.  From November 28-December 12, PG&E will send ACRT, Inc.to pre-inspect and repatrol these areas.

Mokelumne Hill:

Jesus Maria Rd
Ponderosa Way
Worden Rd
Hwy 26

Mountain Ranch:
Whiskey Slide

East Murray Creek

Avenue A
Mountain Ranch Rd
Railroad Flat Rd

Sheep Ranch:

Railroad Flat Rd

PG&E's tree cutting schedule from November 28- December 12 will include these areas.

Mokelumne Hill:

Jesus Maria Rd
Baker Riley Rd
Old Gambetta Rd
Doster Rd
East Murray Creek
Old Greek Mine Rd
Buttondown Lane
Rainbow Rd
Upper Dorray Rd.
Lower Dorray Rd
Electra Rd
Flat Gulch Rd
Lower Gulch Rd
Diamond Lane
Old Gambetta Trl
Ponderosa Wy
Hwy 26
Sierra Oaks Lane

Mountain Ranch:

RailRoad Flat Rd
El Dorado Trl
Sierra Vista Way
West murray Creek
East Murray Cree
Whiskey Slide
Green Ranch Rd
Pine Ridge Rd
Struckman Rd
Emigrant Ct
Avenue A
3 Mile Ln
Rodesino Rd
Carabaldi St
Washington St
Old Emigrant Trail W
Hwy 26
Cedar Way
Spring Lake Rd
Cilenti Ranch Rd
Loma Serena Rd
Swiss Ranch Rd
Worden Rd
Francine Ct
44 Ranch Rd
Ponderosa Wy
Storey Rd
Wendell Rd
Hidden Valley Rd
Sheep Ranch Rd

Sheep Ranch:

Eagleview Dr
Cave City Rd
Sun Rd
Ham Luddy Rd
Skyview Ct
Lakeside Dr
Sugar Pine Rd
Eagleview Dr
Live Oak Lane
Oakridge Rd
Calaveras Rd 

Railroad Flat Rd
Hidden Valley Rd
Sheep Ranch Rd

Butte Fire: Diverting Money Raised For Tree-Trimming Wouldn't Be Anything New For PG&E

As lawyers for the victims of the San Bruno fire, we learned that the “gas side of the house” at PG&E saves money by collecting money from rate payers to perform maintenance and then deferring the work. The extra money on the books helps improve PG&E’s bottom line, and results in bigger bonuses for PG&E's management.

As it turns out, the electric side of the house has a history of doing the same thing.  Most notably, inButte Fire: PG&E Tree Trimming 1998 the California Public Utilities Commission found that PG&E took $77.6 million that was supposed to be spent trimming trees near power lines, and used it to boost profits, just as PG&E would later do in San Bruno.

The CPUC report followed a Nevada County jury’s verdict that found PG&E criminally liable for the Trauner fire near Grass Valley. That fire was started when a tree limb that PG&E was supposed to keep trimmed brushed up against a 21.000-volt power line. 

The Nevada County Deputy District Attorney on this case was hopeful that the verdict would bring about change.

Hopefully, this sends a message to upper-level PG&E management that they must do whatever is necessary to comply with the law and protect public safety.

Given what happened in San Bruno, and what just happened in Butte, the Nevada County verdict apparently wasn’t enough of a message.  

Butte Fire: Was the Tree Dead or Alive?

By now it's no secret that the Butte Fire was likely sparked by a tree coming into contact with a PG&E overhead line. Jaxon Van Der Beken of the San Francisco Chronicle (who, by the way, won awards for his investigative reporting of the San Bruno PG&E fire), broke that news a week ago.

But PG&E makes a point of saying that the tree was a Butte Fire PG&E Tree Trimming live tree. PG&E really wants us to know that.

Does it matter? Not really. Certainly, PG&E's lawyers will point out that there are many regulations requiring PG&E to clear away from it's overhead electrical lines trees that are dead or rotten.  For example, the California Public Utility Commission rules say

When [PG&E] has actual knowledge . . . that dead, rotten or diseased trees or dead, rotten or diseased portions of otherwise healthy trees overhang or lean toward and may fall into a span of supply or communication lines, said trees or portions thereof should be removed.

But PG&E's responsibilities don't end there. The law requires PG&E to prune as necessary to keep it's electrical lines clear of all trees, dead or alive.

Dead trees, old decadent or rotten trees, trees weakened by decay or disease and trees or portions thereof that are leaning toward the line which may contact the line from the side or may fall on the line shall be felled, cut, or trimmed so as to remove such hazard.

If, as PG&E says, it inspected many times since 2014 the live tree that sparked the fire, it presumably should have noticed that the tree could contact the electrical line, just as might a dead or rotten tree, and "felled, cut, or trimmed" the tree so as to remove the hazard.  

PG&E's lawyers might argue the point, but on its own website, PG&E seems to acknowledge that its responsibility extends to all trees that might come in contact with one of its lines, whether that tree is dead or alive. 

Utilities are required to maintain clearance between vegetation and high voltage power lines at all times in all areas for public safety and electric system reliability.

It's just common sense.