Natural Resource Stewardship
As one of the largest land owners in California, PG&E has a long history of managing lands and waters in a responsible and environmentally sensitive way. This includes protecting threatened and endangered species and their habitats, safeguarding watershed lands that PG&E has committed to preserve in perpetuity, maintaining forest lands to minimize the threat of wildfire and controlling vegetation around our overhead power lines so that customers experience fewer outages.
Minimizing Impacts of Our Operations
As we invest in our gas, electric and power generation facilities to meet customer needs, we recognize the critical importance of protecting threatened and endangered species and their habitats.
Examples of our efforts include:
- Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs): In 2015, we marked the eighth year of our San Joaquin Valley Operations and Maintenance HCP, a 30-year permit covering our gas and electric operations and maintenance activities. The HCP covers 23 wildlife and 42 plant species while allowing PG&E to maintain and operate our facilities in a way that protects these sensitive species and the habitats in which they are found. PG&E also made significant progress on its second HCP, which upon regulatory approval will cover the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
PG&E’s commitment to protecting birds is threefold: to comply with state and federal laws, protect migratory birds and improve system safety and electric service reliability for customers.
To meet these goals, we maintain a comprehensive Avian Protection Plan, which incorporates protection measures into new and reconstructed electric distribution facilities within designated raptor concentration zones. We also provide information, resources and training to improve employee knowledge and awareness about migratory birds.
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
- 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
PG&E works to manage our hydroelectric facilities in a manner that restores and enhances habitat for fish and other wildlife. We also maintain 52,000 acres of forestland in ways that help prevent the spread of wildfires, which include engaging nearby communities in wildfire prevention programs and collecting and storing seeds from PG&E forestlands for future restoration purposes.
In addition, as part of our Land Conservation Commitment, PG&E is permanently protecting some of California’s most beautiful watershed lands—totaling more than 140,000 acres— through the donations of fee title and conservation easements on watershed lands to public agencies and qualified conservation organizations. Donees are identified by the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, an independent nonprofit organization.
These land donations will enhance or preserve natural habit for fish, wildlife and plants; preserve open space and outdoor recreation for the general public; and protect sustainable forestry, agricultural uses and historic and cultural values in perpetuity.
PG&E responds in time of need
Following the devastating Valley and Butte Fires of 2015, PG&E led efforts to assist more than 570 landowners by removing large burned woody debris near houses and powerlines. Crews hauled over 92,000 logs and pieces of debris to locations where it could be processed for mill logs or biomass chips, at no cost to the landowner.
Each year, PG&E’s Vegetation Management department and its contracting arborists and foresters inspect miles of power lines in our service area for public safety and electric reliability. We do so in compliance with relevant laws and with a focus on public involvement, including extensive “Right Tree, Right Place” outreach. PG&E has been recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree Line USA recipient for 21 consecutive years for demonstrating best practices in energy sector arboriculture.
PG&E Partners with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore habitat
PG&E volunteers in Cupertino helped restore a riparian meadow at McClellan Ranch Preserve, which is increasingly threatened by urban growth. The effort was part of PG&E’s Nature Restoration Trust, a collaboration between PG&E and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. PG&E and the foundation contributed $18,000 toward the restoration effort at McClellan Ranch, which is also home to a creek that supports threatened populations of steelhead trout.
We continued to develop partnerships and new approaches to help us deliver safe and reliable service while protecting wildlife and other natural resources, including:
- Continued to protect bees and other pollinators by working with university and nonprofit researchers to understand how different vegetation management techniques within our electric transmission rights-of-way could benefit pollinators. Preliminary results show that integrated vegetation management techniques designed to support safety and reliability also create conditions that benefit native bees. Further research results are expected in 2016. PG&E is also a supporter of the nonprofit Pollinator Partnership, which allows beekeepers access to bee forage on our corporate lands and is a founding member of Business for Bees—American Business Collaboration for Pollinator Conservation Action.
- Completed our third Safe Harbor Agreement to aid in the recovery of the Shasta crayfish. PG&E signed the voluntary agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide a safe haven for the Shasta crayfish, a critically endangered species with an estimated population of 2,200 remaining. This agreement is the first joint federal and state Safe Harbor Agreement in California, and PG&E’s first on our hydro lands.
- Permanently protected land by transferring fee title to 920 acres in Amador County to the U.S. Forest Service and 41 acres along the Yuba River to the University of California as part of our Land Conservation Commitment. An additional 2,178 acres of PG&E property were placed under five separate conservation easements, permanently protecting them.
- 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.
- Offered an online reservation system for our recreational areas, making it easier to reserve recreational areas and campsites at more PG&E campgrounds. More than 70 percent of our campsites can now be reserved online. PG&E is required to maintain campgrounds and picnic areas at many of the reservoirs that are part of our hydroelectric system, and visitors can now easily browse photos and descriptions of these sites and reserve them online.
PG&E engages in a wide variety of restoration and habitat protection activities to fulfill state and federal regulatory requirements, and to support voluntary environmental initiatives. In 2015, our efforts protected or restored 4,068 acres of habitat and 8.6 miles of stream and river riparian vegetation.
|Acres set aside and protected||253.8 acres||259.3 acres||3,336.8 acres|
|Acres of restored habitat||236.5 acres||1,539.3 acres||731.3 acres|
|Miles of stream and river riparian vegetation protected||6.4 miles||11.6 miles||8.6 miles|
- 1. PG&E undertook these activities to meet various regulatory requirements. Return to table
Since 2002, PG&E has made approximately 28,900 existing utility poles and towers bird-safe. In that time, we have also retrofitted more than 32,200 utility poles in areas where bird injuries, 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.
|% Poles Completed||103%||104%||108%|
PG&E delays construction project after discovery of golden eagles
As a PG&E crew of electric line workers was about to begin a two-week project in Contra Costa County to move power lines from one side of the road to another, they saw golden eagles in the vicinity of the construction site. They consulted PG&E’s Avian Protection Program manager, and alerted the county and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The work was suspended until the young eagles left the nest and the crew was cleared to proceed.
PG&E Partners with CAL FIRE to combat bark beetles during drought
PG&E supported CAL FIRE’s “Prepare for Bark Beetle” public awareness campaign by increasing inspections and pruning or removing hazardous trees around our power lines. We also provided funding to support CAL FIRE’s outreach to inform homeowners about the wildfire risk posed by bark beetles and how to safely take action.
As part of our environmental commitment, we will continue to minimize the impacts of our operations on sensitive habitat and species. This includes collaborating with federal, state and local stakeholders, as well as other energy companies, to benchmark and implement best practices so that we can manage lands and waters in a responsible and environmentally sensitive way.
In addition, with drought conditions improving but persistent, California continues to face an increased risk of wildfires. In response, we have taken many proactive measures, including air patrols of specific stretches of land and safely removing or pruning dead or dying trees in fire-prone areas.