PG&E's Scorched-Earth Policy: What are the Real Issues?

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1) Most of the current homeowners had no idea that there is a 2' pipe in our back yards. My title report, for example, has zero indication of a pipe. A high-ranking civil engineer with the city examined the neighbor's documentation and concluded that it gives zero indication of the presence of a pipe. PG&E has made no effort over the years to notify homeowners of the presence of the pipeline, and for at least the past decade or more PG&E physically could not have been doing the onsite monitoring of the pipeline that it claims. Even if homeowners had known about the pipeline, the presence of 100' tall trees speaks for itself. Our 1940's easement agreement does not contain language that states or in any way implies that if PG&E were to develop cheaper monitoring technology 70 years in the future, as it has, homeowners must accept any and all life-altering changes to our agreement simply because it makes monitoring cheaper for PG&E.

2) If PG&E really does have the right to enforce its new plan, as it claims, then why did it need to resort to repeated lies and heavy-handed intimidation to encourage homeowners to authorize an amendment to the current agreement? Why has it chosen to display such bad faith? Why should anyone trust PG&E now, given its clear negligence in safety in Mountain View, given that it has been determined that similar negligence in San Bruno was responsible for the recent devastating explosion there, and given the clear nature of its lies and attempts to intimidate homeowners now?

3) On all television appearances by PG&E, the only point that its spokespeople emphasize is safety, how PG&E wants it and how homeowners are fighting it. That is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. PG&E is interested in safety, due to political and public pressure, but only insofar as PG&E does not have to spend money to achieve it. PG&E wants to keep the current pipe in place, even though it was built almost 70 years ago, designed for a completely rural area, 20 years before there were any state regulations in place at all. PG&E claims that our tree roots might hurt the pipe, while guaranteeing that the roots of the 100' high trees and 6' in diameter trees now sitting on top of the pipe have done no harm yet. PG&E tells the public horror stories of the rotting of pipes from tree roots, yet guarantees that our 100' trees have caused no harm yet. If PG&E is telling the truth with their horror stories of tree root damage, then the pipes at a minimum must be in such a state that even a minor earthquake in our earthquake prone zone could destroy our entire neighborhood. No modern pipe would be allowed with a setback of only 10' from homeowner bedrooms or to pass under a middle school. The city strongly and repeatedly encouraged PG&E to work with it to relocate and renovate the pipe in light of the modern urban environment and the well-recognized ancient and degraded structure of the pipe, but PG&E is only interested in minimal, marginal improvements to safety to the extent that it does not have to pay for it. Instead, PG&E prefers to push its pain onto homeowners and the cities. A PG&E pipeline maintenance supervisor even went so far as to tell 5 homeowners, quite aggressively, that the current pipe, even at 70 years of age, is so vastly superior in quality to modern PG&E pipe that we should actually be happy that we have the existing pipe and not a modern pipe in our backyards.

4) PG&E tells homeowners that it cannot allow trees within the easement land. Yet the easement agreement clearly lists what is not allowed within the easement, and trees are not on that list. That is the reason why PG&E has allowed trees to grow everywhere throughout the easement, for 60 years, some 100' tall and others 6' in diameter. Such a life-altering amendment to the easement agreement should not be pushed on homeowners through aggressive intimidation backed by blatant lies. This change affects not only a few homeowners, but the entire city, as the long swath of destruction of trees will stand out like a sore thumb. We should have a public conversation over the city's future, rather than allowing PG&E to sneak up on the city, and soon on the rest of the state, and use intimidation and lies against homeowners on an individual basis.

5) The PG&E web site states that PG&E will take full responsibility for all of its actions. It is well-documented that PG&E negligence has caused this situation. PG&E has been negligent in monitoring its pipeline on private land for at least the recent decade, PG&E has not been informing new homeowners of the presence of its pipeline, and now PG&E wants to overturn 60 years of precedent and expectations that PG&E itself set in order to push its pain onto homeowners and cities as PG&E tries, in the cheapest way possible, to marginally improve the appearance of safety. To PG&E, taking full responsibility for its actions does not seem to extend to any financial responsibility. They are simply empty words.

6) Mountain View is part of a pilot project. If PG&E is allowed to use lies and intimidation to push its pain onto homeowners here, if Californians do not put a stop to PG&E here and now, then we are condemning thousands of our neighbor Californians to the same fate once PG&E moves into full state-wide implementation of its plan. California corporations must be held accountable for their behavior. PG&E negligence has created a time bomb, waiting to explode throughout the state. Is the recent explosion in San Bruno not enough? How many more explosions will it take before Californians say that enough is enough? Gas distribution is too important to this state, and too full of potential danger, to let PG&E continue its mismanagement and misbehavior, with its policies guided only by profit motives. Lies and intimidation are simply not acceptable societal behavior for large corporations. Let PG&E read its own website, and let it be held accountable for its actions.

7) A PG&E supervisor stated emphatically, in front of numerous witnesses, that the cost to relocate the pipe would exceed $1 million per foot, in other words it would cost more than 5 BILLION 280 MILLION DOLLARS per mile. When challenged on this cost, the number was aggressively repeated. How can homeowners or the city possibly work together with PG&E when faced with such blatant lies? It is time for a public discussion, and an honest discussion, about the future safety of gas pipelines.