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PG&E cuts tree-trimming program it says was ineffective in fire mitigation

PG&E cuts $2.5 billion tree trimming program early
PG&E cuts $2.5 billion tree trimming program early 02:32

NEVADA CITY — A years-long $2.5 billion Pacific Gas and Electric program geared towards fire mitigation is shutting down.

PG&E's tree trimming program began in the wake of the Paradise Camp Fire and is ending after five years in effect. The company said it will provide better alternatives, and residents are taking a leap of faith in trust.

Lee Johnson is just learning the news of the tree trimming program's end, and it's happening just as the utility company is set to take two big oak trees off his property.

"They've replaced a lot of the lines and telephone poles," Johnson said. "They've replaced power poles, and they've trimmed a lot of trees."

In this area of Nevada City, fire is a constant danger.

"The neighbors up here have been taking down trees because they're fearful of fires and trying to cut the fire load," Johnson said.

PG&E said that an internal review showed that trying to take out every threatening tree wasn't effective. Instead, they are focusing on undergrounding lines and what is called enhanced powerline settings, which shuts off certain grids if a fire is detected.

The company said in a statement: "We are mitigating the trees in a risk-informed manner, focused on mitigating the highest risk trees starting in 2023."

"I thought they should be undergrounding lines because they could spend money more efficiently because they wouldn't have to remove the trees," Johnson said.

As part of the original tree trimming plan, PG&E will take out 385,000 marked trees in a five-year period. Johnson hopes the new efforts will help allow residents to enjoy their homes without as much risk.

"It makes sense," he said. "I know that people don't want to lose trees."

PG&E said that although the specific tree trimming program will come to an end, they still will be doing general maintenance on trees that are threatening their lines.

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