Thursday, April 14, 2011

My love for my utility company

Let's face it, even if I managed to find some way to go off the grid and not be dependent on PG&E for power, I'd still have to deal with this.

This is a 230kv transmission line that comes through my neighborhood. Due to this PG&E has an easement on the front of our property that allows them access to those lines and tree trimming because the lines come down our street. Over the years PG&E has trimmed the tops of the tree's. Two years ago they wanted to remove them and we politely declined. I happened to be home one day when Davey Tree showed up to remove the tree's and I said "um, no. We told PG&E we would not allow removal." The Davey employee asked if he could trim them and I gave him permission to do that. I was horrified after the fact, that had I not been home they would have just removed the tree's.

To give you a little history on our tree's:

I'm not even certain how long these tree's have been here. But I do know that years ago someone crashed into the front yard that the birch tree basically saved the rest of the yard as it prevented the vehicle from coming up in further into the yard. Today, I have two young children who love to play in the front yard and these tree's serve as a natural barrier to the flat part of our yard where my children play. We live on a heavily traveled street where people tend to not obey the speed limit so as parents and pet owners a little scary to us to think of not having that barrier to protect all that is important to us.

This year, an ACRT employee who was evaluating the trees and clearance approached me one day  (again I was lucky to be home) to talk about removal of the tree's. I told him the same thing, we're happy to trim them but we don't want them removed. Okay fine, guy takes my name makes some notes and leaves. The following month we receive a letter from PG&E stating they are removing two of the tree's, call us if you have questions or concerns. We make several calls and talk to a couple of very rude and unsympathetic people who just tell us they are coming out but they will give us three weeks to do whatever research we want. When we ask to see official measurements because their website says they only need 12-20 feet of clearance based on the species of tree they inform us they are now requiring 40 feet.  What, why they change where is the documentation? Whatever we ask for we are met with resistance and basically told we're taking them out, too bad so sad. We ask about being compensated to re-vegetate the area, nope, not getting that either.

Over the past couple of weeks we have ordered a copy of the full easement which is a typed document from the late 20's. I contact CPUC and after talking to or being transferred to four different people I find someone who can help. They send an inquiry to PG&E asking for the justification in the plant removal. While they wait for their response the nice guy at CPUC sends me link with information on standards for this level of transmission. The CPUC requirement is 2.97 feet of clearance (Really???? Why does PG&E want 40 feet), NERC (Northern American Electric Reliability Council) is 2.97 feet. Is it just me or is PG&E being totally unreasonable in asking for 40 feet of clearance with a 50 foot tall line. I better tell my neighbors to watch out for their shrubs!

After a call with our attorney last nigh he advised to tell PG&E if their intent is to remove our tree's they are trespassing and we will call the police. If they would like to discuss trimming the tree's we will allow them on your property to conduct that work. This morning my husband finds them down the street and has a conversation with the Forester (who is apparently an arborist and doesn't feel bad that he;s just ordering tree's to be clear cut) and explains exactly what our attorney said to say, what they are doing is unreasonable and excessive and we've also spoke to CPUC. The guys says "okay, I'll pass that along to my team" and shakes his hand.

An hour and a half later they pull up to my house and my neighbors house with two crews. No safety measure are taking place, this is clearly the din-dong ditch of tree removal. I run out of the house and look at the Forester and say you're just here to trim right? The tree's are coming down he tells me. Thank goodness I had the phone in my hand, as the chainsaw starts up I call 911 and then my husband. I yell at the Davey Tree employee to get off my property that he is trespassing, he pauses and looks at the Forester but does not turn off the chainsaw. I yell again. I look up at my neighbors house as I hear a chainsaw up there and see my neighbor and I tell him I have already called the police. I call dispatch again and ask that the officer hurry up. For a moment the Davey employee shuts down the chainsaw and I feel a little relief. I look up at my neighbors yard just in time to see his tree hit the ground. His tree is much larger than ours, no precautions were taken, no ropes used they simply took it down in a matter of minutes. What I found out later was that my neighbor ordered them off his property requested to see a copy of the easement, while the ACRT employee pretended to go to his truck to get a copy of the easement (which he didn't have) mu neighbor went into his house to get the phone and also call the police and they took his tree out while his back was turned. The tree landed in the middle of the street blocking lanes, there were no personal to stop or direct traffic while this happened and cars were honking and yelling at the crews. While I was watching this unfold The Davey employee in my yard started up the saw and made another attempt. I looked at him and yelled again that he was trespassing, I wanted him to understand that he was the only person on my property that the PG&E folks were smartly standing across the street and when the cops show up he would be the one trespassing. He backed off.

Orinda police showed up and I got a moment to actually breathe.

This is my neighbor's tree as they try to hustle to get it out of the street since they completely did it in an unsafe fashion. Today's ordeal went on for three hours. Three hours of tears, yelling, the entire on duty Orinda Police force (that would be three officers and a sergeant), attorney's and more tears.

In the final moments Orinda Police told me I had to let them take the tree's down. Even though I was the only individual with the actual easement that while archaic my attorney has deciphered to read that they are only allowed 10 feet of clearance, no one cared. Even though PG&E touts their rights based on this easement, no one cared what it actually said. When I mentioned sitting in the tree, I was informed they would restrain me and it would go from a civil issue to a criminal one. At this point I'm sobbing on the phone with my attorney, the cops tell me to just take photos so I can sue them alter (gee thanks). We've exhausted every option and I'm going to have to explain to my girls why Mommy couldn't save the tree's, the chainsaw stops. My attorney has managed to get a hold of PG&E's attorney and she's giving us a week to figure it out. The Forester comes up and decides to show his compassionate side and says he'll help us identify a proper tree to replant and that this just isn't the species they want under the lines. He then offers to help reimburse for the cost of new tree's. I tell him why this wasn't a discussion we could have had two weeks ago to avoid this entire situation. It's all a load of crap I know, the attorney told him to play nice, I get it.

The bottom line is they'll be back next Thursday to take my tree's unless my attorney and PG&E's attorney can agree on what his really reasonable. I feel so violated and so bullied I just can't even get my head around my emotions right now. My husband warned me that the once the adrenaline wore off, I wouldn't feel quite right, I didn't understand what he meant at the time, but now I do. I have the shakes and I just can't quite pull myself out of it.

At the least, we hopefully through a wrench in their system and their bullying, While next week I may be two tree's less at least I know I fought the good fight and stood up for what I felt was right.

1 comment:

  1. That is incredible! I'm sorry this has been such a difficult situation for you. The trees are beautiful and it will be a shame for them to come down :(