PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2017

Natural Resource Stewardship

At PG&E, we believe in acting as responsible stewards for the lands we own and where we operate. As one of the largest land owners in California, we recognize our responsibility to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitat, maintain vegetation clearances around our overhead power lines so that customers experience fewer outages, safeguard watershed lands that we have committed to preserve in perpetuity and manage forested lands to minimize the threat of wildfire.

Our Approach

Minimizing the Impact of Our Operations

As we provide safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy to our customers, it is our responsibility to do so while protecting threatened and endangered species and their habitats.

Examples of our efforts to protect local environments include:

  • Providing safe harbor for endangered species: PG&E maintains Safe Harbor Agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for PG&E-owned land at three locations: Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge in Contra Costa County, Tulare Hill in Santa Clara County and PG&E’s hydro lands in Shasta County. These agreements enable our crews to safely maintain and operate infrastructure while enhancing habitat for endangered species such as Lange’s metalmark butterfly and the Shasta crayfish, which are especially vulnerable to changes in habitat, invasive species and climate change.
  • Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs): In the San Joaquin valley, PG&E continues to maintain and operate our facilities in a way that protects 23 wildlife and 42 plant species and the sensitive habitats in which they are found. This is done under our San Joaquin Valley Operations and Maintenance HCP and a 30-year permit that allows us to maintain our infrastructure without having to acquire individual project-by-project permits.

    PG&E achieved a major milestone for its second HCP, the Bay Area Operations and Maintenance HCP, which was listed in the Federal Register in 2017 for public comment. Once approved, the HCP will cover 32 wildlife and plant species in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Protecting Birds

PG&E’s commitment to protecting birds helps us accomplish three important goals: comply with state and federal laws, protect migratory birds and raptors, and improve system safety and electric service reliability for customers.

Our commitment is spelled out in PG&E’s Avian Protection Plan, which is one of the most comprehensive in the nation. This plan includes training our employees and partners on bird protection laws, collaborating with federal and state agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to promote habitat conservation and retrofitting power poles to make them “bird safe,” especially within designated raptor concentration zones.

We also have companion plans to augment our Avian Protection Plan:

  • A Nesting Bird Management Plan to provide internal guidelines for operational and construction activities when working near active bird nests, and
  • An Eagle Conservation Plan, under development in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that aims to lead the industry in protecting eagles and other migratory birds while also improving service reliability.

Sustainably Managing Lands and Watersheds

Through our management practices, PG&E contributes to the restoration and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat. We also maintain 52,000 acres of forested land in ways that help prevent the spread of wildfires. This includes partnering with local communities in wildfire prevention programs and collecting and storing seeds from PG&E forested lands for future restoration purposes.

As part of our Land Conservation Commitment, PG&E is permanently protecting more than 140,000 acres through the donations of fee title and conservation easements on watershed lands to public agencies and qualified conservation organizations. An independent nonprofit organization, the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, identifies the organizations that receive these donations. The conservation easements permanently protect natural habitats for fish, wildlife and plants, open space and existing outdoor recreation for the general public, sustainable forestry, agricultural uses and historic and cultural values.

Vegetation Management

PG&E prunes and removes trees growing too close to power lines while maintaining as much vegetation as possible to balance land use and environmental stewardship with customer needs. Through a well-established and innovative vegetation management program, PG&E balances the need to maintain a vast system of trees growing along power lines while complying with state and federal regulations and delivering safe, reliable and affordable electric service. All work includes steps to protect water and air quality, as well as endangered species and habitats.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company has been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree Line USA recipient every year since 1985 for following industry standards in pruning, annual worker training, sponsorship of Arbor Day celebrations and providing customer education to plant the right tree in the right place. Additionally, our vegetation management efforts were recognized by several organizations:

2016 Milestones

In 2016, our efforts to deliver safe and reliable service while protecting wildlife and other natural resources included:

  • Continuing to protect bees and other pollinators through research and partnerships that spotlight the needs of pollinators. For decades, PG&E has reduced the amount of trees and heavy brush that threaten power lines, by replacing them with low-growing, flowering plants and shrubs that support butterflies and bees. PG&E is part of the nonprofit Pollinator Partnership, which allows beekeepers access to bee forage on our corporate lands. We are the only energy member of Business for Bees—American Business Collaboration for Pollinator Conservation Action—designed to establish sustainable vegetation management along infrastructure corridors.
  • Joined Save the Bay to introduce Bay Day, a celebration of the San Francisco Bay and an opportunity to host cleanup and educational activities. PG&E and the non-profit Save the Bay organization kicked off this inaugural event and both organizations continue working to make Bay Area communities clean, sustainable and resilient to climate change.
  • Permanently protected 3,677 acres of land by completing eight Land Conservation Commitment transactions. Five fee donations were completed, including land donated to the U.S. Forest Service in the Mokelumne River watershed and to the University of California in Nevada County. Conservation easements were recorded on three separate PG&E properties.
  • Earned renewed accreditation from the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Corporate Lands for Learning for our Diablo Canyon Land Stewardship Program, which recognizes our wildlife habitat management and environmental education programs. PG&E manages and protects natural resources on more than 14 miles of coastline surrounding the nuclear power plant, and opens the land to researchers and the public. PG&E has earned “Wildlife at Work” certification for five additional sites.
  • Enhanced an online reservation system for our recreational areas, making it easy to reserve recreational areas and campsites at PG&E campgrounds. Nearly 80 percent of PG&E’s campsites can now be reserved online.
  • Continued to reduce the effects of tree mortality along power lines, removing 236,000 trees and inspecting 72,000 miles of line with redundant patrols to identify and remove dead and dying trees in high-risk fire areas. Additionally, PG&E provided customers with assistance in hauling away larger woody debris at no cost; qualified customers reside in counties that have declared tree mortality emergencies.

Measuring Progress

PG&E restores and protects environmental habitats to fulfill state and federal regulatory requirements and to support voluntary environmental initiatives. In 2016, our efforts protected or restored more than 4,400 acres of habitat and 8.6 miles of stream and river riparian vegetation.

Protected and Restored Habitat Footnote 1
2014 2015 2016
Acres set aside and protected 259.3 acres 3,336.8 acres 3,656 acres
Acres of restored habitat 1,539.3 acres 731.3 acres 748.1 acres
Miles of stream and river riparian vegetation protected 11.6 miles 8.6 miles 8.6 miles
  • 1. PG&E undertook these activities to meet various regulatory requirements.

Protecting Birds

Since 2002, PG&E has made nearly 31,000 existing power poles and towers bird-safe. In that time, we have also retrofitted more than 33,800 power poles in areas where bird injuries or fatalities or bird-related power outages have occurred. All new poles and replacement poles in our designated “Raptor Concentration Zone” are also built to be bird-safe.

Bird Protection Program (Bird-Safe Retrofits)
2014 2015 2016
Poles Planned 2,000 2,000 2,000
Poles Completed 2,089 2,161 2,068
% Poles Completed 104% 108% 103%

Looking Ahead

As part of our environmental commitment, we will continue to look for ways to protect the ecosystems where we work and minimize the impacts of our operations on sensitive habitats and species. By collaborating with federal, state and local stakeholders, as well as other energy companies, we will continue striving to manage lands and waters in a responsible and environmentally sensitive way.

Despite drought conditions improving in Northern California, we face a sustained risk of wildfires. We are using emerging aerial LiDAR (light detection and ranging) imagery patrol technologies to proactively detect hazardous trees near power lines. In the future, we anticipate using this technology as part of our routine operations to maintain power lines in compliance with required vegetation clearances.

In addition, we will continue to take proactive measures in conjunction with the Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force, educating homeowners who are planting new trees to avoid future conflicts with power lines and working with communities and nonprofits such as California RELEAF to plant trees at Arbor Day events.