LAFAYETTE (CBS SF) — A judge presiding over a lawsuit by the City of Lafayette against PG&E over a plan by the utility to remove a group of trees has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the tree removal, according to the city.

The 17 trees are on East Bay Regional Park District property within the City of Lafayette along the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail.  Their planned removal is part of a PG&E initiative to remove trees so workers have easier access to gas transmission lines in an emergency.

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Judge Dennis Montali of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California issued the limited temporary restraining order Tuesday, after the city argued PG&E failed to comply with a 2017 Tree Removal Agreement which stipulates that the utility cannot remove trees within Lafayette city limits until all obligations in the agreement have been met.

A follow-up hearing was to be held later this week.

According to the city, PG&E has not met its obligations to “provide all information required by the City’s Tree Protection Regulations,” which prompted the city to host a special City Council meeting and decide to file the lawsuit to prevent PG&E from removing the trees.

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The community group Save Lafayette Trees says PG&E’s ongoing efforts to remove trees around its pipelines are an unnecessary and destructive program that diverts money and time away from important gas pipeline safety projects.

PG&E released the following statement:

Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers, employees and communities we serve. As part of PG&E’s Community Pipeline Safety Initiative, we identified 17 trees on East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) property within the City of Lafayette that are located too close to the gas transmission pipeline and need to be removed for gas-related safety reasons. These trees are owned by EBRPD, located on district lands and we have coordinated with EBRPD and received the necessary approval and permit for this work.

Over the last few years, we have engaged with the Lafayette community, listened and incorporated feedback on our Community Pipeline Safety Initiative. We cannot compromise on safety, which is why we decided to move forward with this work. We have honored our obligation to the City, provided all information required by its 2017 agreement and notified of our intent to conduct this work. While we continue to believe it is important that we complete this EBRPD work, we understand the bankruptcy court’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order to allow the court to more fully consider the parties’ positions. We look forward to participating in the next hearing to further discuss this important safety work.  

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