Demonstrating Environmental Stewardship

PG&E has a long history of managing lands and waters in a responsible and environmentally sensitive manner. Our vast network of pipes and wires can traverse unique and sensitive habitat. PG&E has an obligation to protect these resources while we perform our operations and meet our customers' expectations regarding reliability and service.

Managing Our Hydro Operations

PG&E's vast hydroelectric system, with many dams and powerhouses dating back to the early twentieth century, has long been a vital source of clean energy for California. We see these assets as continuing to be an important part of PG&E's power mix for years to come—especially in light of the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We also see opportunities, however, to mitigate many of the natural resource impacts that can be associated with hydroelectric projects. The renewal of our federal operating licenses for these facilities is a key opportunity for us to take a number of such steps. New licenses include measures to protect, mitigate and enhance natural resources, giving equal consideration to all beneficial uses, including conservation, fish and wildlife habitat protection and enhancement, recreational opportunities, preserving environmental quality and power generation.

More than half of our 26 federally licensed hydro projects have been, or will be, relicensed between 2000 and 2012. In each case, we are identifying and assessing the various project-specific impacts, including impacts to biodiversity. We also have made it a priority to work collaboratively with other stakeholders throughout the relicensing process to identify and agree on appropriate mitigation measures.

For example, in connection with the new 36-year license we received in 2007 for our Pit 3, 4 and 5 Hydroelectric Project, we are now implementing significant facility upgrades to enable us to provide higher minimum instream flows in the three project-affected reaches of the Pit River. The higher streamflows, developed collaboratively with state and federal resource agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders, will enhance approximately 22.5 miles of the Pit River once completed in 2010.

Responsible Stewardship of California's Natural Resources

In 2007, PG&E created an Environmental Stewardship Program to structure and better integrate a number of ongoing efforts. The program is designed to improve planning, coordination and implementation across a wide variety of stewardship priorities and further strengthen relations with regulatory agencies, environmental groups and other important stakeholders. Highlights of 2007 activities include the following:

  • We finalized a plan to permanently protect watershed lands. PG&E and the Board of the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, an independent non-profit organization, formally adopted a Land Conservation Plan to permanently protect more than 140,000 acres of company-owned watershed lands. In 2008, PG&E will begin the multiyear process of donating fee title or granting conservation easements to public agencies or qualified conservation organizations.

    This outcome was the result of an intensive effort to engage stakeholders, who provided extensive input on the plan. Between 2005 and 2006, the Council held 35 community meetings drawing nearly 1,000 attendees. This public outreach will continue as the plan is implemented in 2008 and beyond.


    Signage near PG&E’s Pleasant Creek Underground Gas Storage Facility

    Photo of Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle

    Created in 2003 as part of the agreement with state regulators to settle the Utility's bankruptcy, the Stewardship Council receives funding from PG&E in the amount of $10 million annually for 10 years. PG&E holds one seat on the Council's Board of Directors.
  • We signed an agreement with Audubon California to restore native habitat. In an agreement that can serve as a model for future projects on lands owned by PG&E, we are participating in Audubon California's Landowner Stewardship Program, allowing Audubon to restore 30 acres of native habitat at PG&E's Pleasant Creek Underground Gas Storage Facility in Yolo County. The Audubon Landowner Stewardship Program works with private landowners to enhance and restore riparian (riverbank-dwelling), oak woodland and grassland habitats in a manner compatible with existing agricultural operations.
  • We took steps to permanently protect 700 acres of high-quality habitat for the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle. To help PG&E meet our compliance obligations under the federal Endangered Species Act, PG&E partnered with state and federal resource agencies, three prominent land conservation organizations and academia to conserve the picturesque watershed at Fine Gold Creek in Madera County. The threatened beetle is a rare habitat specialist—which means it relies solely on elderberry bushes for shelter, food and reproduction. PG&E is also protecting sensitive habitat for the beetle by adding approximately 35 acres to the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge.

Best Practice Programs to Protect Birds

In 2002, PG&E and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service entered into an agreement that required PG&E to implement various measures to protect migratory, threatened and endangered birds. When this agreement expired in 2007, PG&E voluntarily adopted a proactive Avian Protection Plan that expands PG&E’s commitments in public outreach, collaborative research and “bird safe” technology demonstration projects. This plan has set the standard for our industry and is one of the most comprehensive in the nation.

Bird Protection Program (2007 Bird-Safe Retrofits)
 
2005
2006
2007
Poles Planned
2,050
2,075
2,000
Poles Completed
2,073
2,117
2,000
% Poles Completed
101%
102%
100%

In Big Sur, PG&E employs bird flight diverters, devices that have proven to reduce waterfowl collisions with power lines by up to 60 percent.

Since 2002, in compliance with the agreement, PG&E has retrofitted more than 12,230 existing utility poles and towers with "bird-safe" equipment; we have also retrofitted more than 11,100 poles in high-risk areas where bird injuries or fatalities have occurred previously, or where there have been bird-related power outages. All new poles and replacement poles in Raptor Concentration Zones are also built "bird safe."

A priority has been preventing the endangered California condor from colliding with PG&E's overhead power lines near Big Sur. PG&E installed "bird flight diverters" throughout the area—innovative devices that hang from the power lines and provide a visual image to alert the birds to the lines.

Despite these efforts, in 2007, a condor was electrocuted in flight when it made contact with PG&E's power lines. In response, PG&E has taken additional steps to protect the condors and other birds by installing insulated wire on the entire length of this line. Challenges remain, however. For example, the industry still lacks good information on condor vision and effective ways to influence their flight patterns. To help resolve these and related issues, PG&E continues to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventana Wildlife Society, The Avian Power Line Interaction Committee and other key stakeholders focused on condor recovery.


Biodiversity and Infrastructure Development

Whenever PG&E designs and sites new infrastructure, an interdepartmental team of experts and consultants reviews alternative routes that will both meet our customers’ needs and avoid or minimize the overall environmental impact that may result from construction activities. PG&E demonstrated this approach in planning and constructing the Lakeville-Sonoma 115 kV Transmission Line Project in 2007.

PG&E’s challenge was to construct a seven-mile transmission line from Petaluma to Sonoma in northern California. In order to minimize possible environmental impacts, the project team utilized an existing utility corridor, taking advantage of existing access roads and vegetation clearings. Helicopters were used to transport crews and materials in order to minimize ground access impacts. Construction schedules were adjusted to avoid the wet season for ground-disturbing activities. PG&E’s crews helped minimize the spread of sudden oak disease by routinely checking vehicles and personnel for mud and debris and by setting up a vehicle wash station at the construction site.

In addition, PG&E abandoned a section of an existing access road adjacent to California red-legged frog habitat and built a new section of access road away from this sensitive habitat area. Unfortunately, not all environmental impacts could be avoided for this project; 1.35 acres of the frog’s habitat were permanently impacted by new roads.

PG&E’s project team worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Sonoma Land Trust to build a wetland and watershed restoration project to compensate for impacts to the frog habitat. A total of 15.5 acres of land was permanently protected and another 6.75 acres restored.


Forest Management and Habitat Restoration

PG&E has practiced sustainable forestry for the past 60 years, with an emphasis on forest restoration. Throughout more than 52,000 acres of company-owned forest lands, PG&E promotes a healthy forest by removing overstocked and unhealthy trees susceptible to insect attacks and disease—increasing biodiversity; eliminating competition and promoting growth on fewer trees; reducing the threat of wildfires, which better protects communities and company facilities; and helping to address climate change by enhancing the forests' ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

Protected and Restored Habitat—2007*
Acres set aside and protected
148.1 acres1
Acres of restored habitat
103.6 acres2
Miles of stream and river riparian vegetation protected
16.5 miles1

* This represents the first year PG&E has formally reported this data, so no trend data is available.
1 PG&E undertook these activities to meet various regulatory requirements.
2 Of this total, PG&E voluntarily restored 75 acres on company-owned property.


 


PG&E is partnering with more than a dozen agencies and organizations, including Sustainable Conservation, to help restore populations of the rapidly declining tricolored blackbird.


As part of a 2007 timber harvest near the South Fork Stanislaus River, PG&E enhanced 45 acres of Sierran meadow and protected nearly 6 miles of riparian vegetation adjacent to lakes, rivers and streams.


We are working with a host of partners, including federal and state agencies and academic experts, to save the endangered Shasta crayfish.

 


In 2007, PG&E opened Point Buchon Trail, a new three-mile trail on the northern part of our Diablo Canyon Power Plant property, to the public—part of the 12,000 surrounding acres that provide valuable habitat for many plants and animals.

In 2007, PG&E completed one-half of a sustainable timber harvest at Bucks Lake, a high-use recreational area owned by the company near Quincy, California. During the planning phase of the project, PG&E facilitated extensive community and government agency involvement and achieved several important outcomes: delaying harvesting until after the prime recreation season and nesting period for osprey; leaving an existing old-growth 40-acre timber stand in place; collecting unusable trees, logging debris, and brush to create renewable electricity from biomass, reduce fire danger, and promote a healthier forest; protecting streams and watercourses with buffer zones and portable bridges; and enhancing fisheries habitat along Bucks Creek.

In addition, we completed a detailed inventory and mapping of 710 miles of roads that we use to manage our forest lands and maintain our facilities, as well as nearly 2,500 watercourse crossings on PG&E's watershed lands. PG&E also began to inventory roads used for transmission line access. This information allows for more effective road maintenance, repair and inspection, which, in turn, reduces erosion and sedimentation, enhances fisheries and riparian habitats, reduces the risk of culvert/crossing failures during periods of high run-off and facilitates access for emergency vehicles responding to forest fires or other natural disasters. Fewer than 1.4 acres were permanently impacted by newly constructed forest management-related roads in 2007.