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Published October 18th, 2017
Second lawsuit filed in attempt to keep PG&E chainsaws out of Briones

Save Lafayette Trees has initiated another lawsuit in its attempt to save trees that PG&E says need to be axed in order to protect underground high transmission gas pipelines as part of the utility company's Community Pipeline Safety Initiative, this time in Briones.
The organization Save Lafayette Trees, which formed from concerned residents in response to the Lafayette City Council's March 27 decision to allow the removal of 272 trees from within the city, many on the Lafayette-Moraga regional trail, filed a second lawsuit on Sept. 29 against the East Bay Regional Parks District and PG&E in an attempt to save an additional 200 trees threatened in Briones. Save Lafayette Trees already has a lawsuit outstanding against the city of Lafayette and PG&E.
PG&E claims the trees in Lafayette need to be removed to provide access to the pipes in case of emergency and to protect the pipes from damage caused by tree roots.
However, Save Lafayette Trees, headed by Lafayette residents Michael Dawson and David Kosters, disputes the necessity of such drastic tree removal measures, saying that PG&E has failed to document a single case of tree roots damaging pipes and suggests instead that the utility company wants to make aerial observations easier by removing the trees.
"The California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit against EBRPD (and PG&E being named as real party) was filed as a direct result of EBRPD not being willing to extend our existing 'tolling agreement,' which would have assured both parties we would continue to discuss the issue of tree removal without risk of them implementing it," Dawson said.
"Since EBRPD was willing to let that tolling agreement expire, it was clear they were going to allow the removal of over 200 trees in Briones Park, which was separately negotiated with PG&E from the March 27 Tree Cutting Agreement with the city of Lafayette," Dawson continued.
PG&E has not released a map of the threatened Briones trees but a pipeline map is available on its website. Dawson says most of the trees are clearly marked for removal with most of the largest trees on the south side of Briones along the ridge.
"PG&E is paying East Bay Parks $245,000. This amount is on top of the additional $531,000 PG&E is paying to the city for the 272 trees within Lafayette," Dawson noted. "The bottom line is that with tree removal costs, it's easy to see PG&E is spending close to $1 million taking down these trees, although it won't make our pipeline any safer."
EBRPD Assistant General Manager of Public Affairs said that they are currently evaluating the case.
While unable to comment on litigation, Dawson says that, regarding the original lawsuit, although they do not have any further settlement meetings scheduled before their Nov. 8 court appearance, they have not stopped talking to PG&E or to the city.
"Safety is and will always be our top priority," said PG&E Marketing and Communication Manager Jeff Smith. "We understand how important trees are to the community and are committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders on plans to address those trees that pose a community safety concern."
As of now, PG&E has yet to respond to the EBRPD lawsuit but Dawson hopes that if they are able to come to a mutually agreeable resolution to the city lawsuit, it will help them resolve the EBRPD lawsuit as well. "It depends on how willing PG&E is to listen to the community concerns regarding unnecessary tree cutting and to address our ongoing pipeline safety questions.
"Again," Dawson said, "the (second) lawsuit was our last resort, after attempting to work directly with the agency to save the trees."

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