Concerns raised as PG&E cuts tree-trimming program for wildfire prevention

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Thursday, August 3, 2023
Concerns raised as PG&E cuts fire prevention tree-trimming program
After four years, PG&E says it's moving away from its enhanced vegetation management program that cleared excess vegetation from power lines.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A shift in strategy for PG&E in their battle against wildfires. After four years and $2 billion in money spent, the company says it's moving away from its enhanced vegetation management program.

That program was a supplemental tree trimming operation that cleared excess vegetation from power lines.

In a statement, the utility giant stressing that while it's axing this program, normal maintenance work won't stop.

They say, in part: "To be clear, the essential work of our trained PG&E arborists and our contract vegetation-management crews to keep trees away from powerlines will continue."

The announcement is unwelcome news to many who worry it could lead to more unnecessary wildfires.

MORE: Gov. Newsom highlights new tech ahead of CA wildfire season

"This disingenuous talk about we're going to keep you safer while dialing back our vegetation management program really rings hollow," said William Abrams.

Abrams lost his home in Sonoma County in 2017 to a fire that was not caused by PG&E.

He says beyond general safety, he worries the potential of more fires could cause home insurance rates in his area to increase.

"State Farm has left the state. Allstate has left the state. And Farmers has increased their insurance by 45%. This is because of PG&E causing wildfires and we're talking about them as if they're separate issues," Abrams said.

Instead of the vegetation management program, PG&E plans on relying on other fire prevention tools.

MORE: How CA's investment in wildfire prevention contributed to a less severe fire season

Those include new equipment to instantaneously shut off problematic power sources, installing new power poles and burying 10,000 miles of wire.

The company addressing questions about their fire mitigation efforts during a virtual town hall Wednesday night.

"There's a ton of work that we want to do on the system. There's only so much work that we're able to do in any given year," said Aaron Johnson, PG&E's regional vice president.

Acceptable to some, but not others who say they want quicker solutions.

"That is going to cost billions and billions of dollars and take well over a decade," said Mark Toney, of The Utility Reform Network.

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