Aug 11, 2019
By Deanna Contreras, PG&E Spokesperson
In December 2017, the CPUC adopted new vegetation and fire safety standards that require power companies to maintain greater vegetation clearances to increase the safety of overhead power lines in high fire-threat areas. The California Public Resources Code (PRC 4295.5) gives utilities the right “to prune trees to maintain clearances pursuant to Section [PRC} 4293, and to abate, by pruning or removal, any hazardous, dead, rotten, diseased, or structurally defective live trees.”
The standards require a clearance of 4 feet around power lines in high fire-threat areas with recommended minimum clearances of 12 feet or more at time of prune to ensure compliance year-round. (Order 95, Rule 35 and Appendix E.)
The enhanced vegetation safety work that is happening in West County and other High Fire-Threat Districts (outlined below) meets and exceeds the CPUC requirements. It focuses on addressing any overhanging branches, limbs or trees which have the potential to come into contact with power lines and addressing specific tree species that pose an increased potential risk of falling into power lines.
All of our vegetation management work is under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). PG&E is keeping the CPUC, as well as the cities and counties where we are doing this work, informed about this essential wildfire safety effort.
PG&E’s service area includes more than 100 million trees with the potential to grow or fall into our overhead power lines. Every year, we inspect every segment of almost 100,000 miles of overhead electric power lines, with some locations patrolled multiple times a year.
• We prune or remove approximately 1.4 million trees annually to help keep the lights on and our customers safe.
• We’ve nearly doubled the amount of money we’re spending on vegetation management to reduce power outages and wildfire risks.
• Since the drought and tree mortality crisis began in 2014, PG&E has also added enhanced measures to address areas particularly affected by drought and bark beetles.
This is what we call routine work or compliance work. This work happens all year-round in Sonoma County. These trees are marked white paint.
Our compliance work involves meeting important state vegetation and fire safety standards, which require clearances of 4 feet around power lines in high fire-threat areas, with recommended minimum clearances of 12 feet or more at time of prune to ensure that 4 foot compliance year-round.
Electric transmission lines generally have greater clearance requirements between the lines and vegetation than distribution lines.
In response to the growing wildfire threat, we have expanded and enhanced our vegetation and safety work. This includes addressing vegetation that poses a higher potential for wildfire risk in high fire-threat areas. This is our enhanced vegetation management program.
The markings for this are yellow.
This work is one of many additional precautionary measures implemented following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires as part of our comprehensive Community Wildfire Safety Program.
Our enhanced vegetation management work includes the following:
• Meeting and exceeding state standards for minimum clearances around the power lines
• Addressing overhanging limbs and branches directly above and around the lines
• Removing dead and dying trees as well as specific tree species that have more frequently fallen into PG&E lines and caused an ignition
The enhanced vegetation safety work exceeds state vegetation and fire safety standards, which require clearances of 4 feet around high-voltage power lines in high fire-threat areas with recommended minimum clearances of 12 feet or more at time of prune to ensure compliance year-round.
When clearing overhanging branches, we will focus on the area directly above and around the power lines.
We will also continue removing dead and dying trees as well as specific tree species that have more frequently fallen into PG&E lines and caused an ignition.
The goal of this important wildfire safety effort is to further reduce the risk of trees, limbs and branches coming into contact with power lines (not necessarily the pole).
Trees that could grow to within four feet of the lines or have the potential to strike the lines will be assessed for removal, while overhanging branches or limbs will generally be pruned.
A hazard tree is a tree that poses an increased potential risk of falling into the lines due to, for example, visible signs of poor health (all or a portion of the tree dying, diseased or decayed), structural concerns, or a compromised root structure.
The total distance we are reviewing depends on the tree species, how tall the tree is, how close it is to the power line and the likelihood of striking the power line if it were to fall.
We are assessing trees that may be in poor health as well as specific tree species that have demonstrated a historical pattern of falling or dropping limbs during fire season. For these species, we are looking at how tall the tree is, how close it is to the power line and the likelihood of striking the power line if it were to fall.
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