PG&E Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report 2018

Northern California Wildfires

Natural Resource Stewardship

As one of the largest land owners in California, environmental stewardship is an essential component of our business. That includes working responsibly to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitat, 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: Pacific Gas and Electric Company continues to implement Safe Harbor Agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for PG&E-owned land at three facility locations: Antioch Dunes in Contra Costa County, Tulare Hill in Santa Clara County and PG&E’s hydro lands in Shasta County. These agreements help enable our crews to safely maintain and operate infrastructure while enhancing habitat for endangered species such as Lange’s metalmark butterfly at Antioch Dunes, the bay checkerspot butterfly at Tulare Hill and the Shasta crayfish—sensitive invertebrate species that are all vulnerable to changes in habitat, invasive species and climate change.
  • Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP): 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 Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s 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. In addition, our San Francisco Bay Area HCP protects 18 wildlife species and 13 plant species in the nine Bay Area counties.

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 included in Pacific Gas and Electric Company’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 Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s 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 public, sustainable forestry, agricultural uses and historic and cultural values.

Vegetation Management

As part of our Community Wildfire Safety Program, implemented in 2017 following the wildfires throughout the state, PG&E is working with our communities to put in place new and enhanced precautionary measures intended to help reduce wildfire risks and keep customers safe. This includes enhanced vegetation management to meet new vegetation and fire safety standards that require keeping trees and limbs farther away from power lines.

In December 2017, the CPUC adopted new regulations that require four feet minimum clearance year-round in high fire-threat areas. In some communities, that is an increase from the previous minimum requirement of 1.5 feet. Meeting the CPUC minimum clearance requirement at all times will require creating clearances of 12 feet or more at many locations to ensure compliance until the next inspection.

Beyond the new clearance requirements, PG&E will also work with communities and customers in high fire-threat areas to reduce vegetation and brush that can act as fuel in case of a wildfire from 15 feet or more on either side of power lines. This work will increase defensible space in our communities and improve access for firefighters responding to wildfires.

2017 Milestones

In 2017, our efforts included:

  • Signing a new permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that covers Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay Area Operations and Maintenance HCP—our second regional plan—covers 31 plant and animal species in the nine Bay Area counties. Under the plan, PG&E is mitigating the impact of operations and maintenance work on these species by acquiring up to 4,800 acres of important habitat in the Bay Area to be set aside in permanent conservation.
  • Permanently protecting 8,309 acres of land by completing 12 Land Conservation Commitment transactions. Four fee donations were completed, including 4,491 acres of land donated to the Fall River Resource Conservation District in the McArthur Swamp watershed. Conservation easements were recorded on eight separate PG&E properties.
  • Continuing to protect birds in our operations. After the healthy rainfall in early 2017, the Kern Water Bank had an abundance of water and, with that, a lot of birds swooping in for a drink. PG&E added about 150 bird diverters along the distribution lines that hover above to keep the birds safe.

Measuring Progress

PG&E restores and protects environmental habitats to fulfill state and federal regulatory requirements and to support voluntary environmental initiatives. In 2017, our efforts protected or restored more than 9,500 acres of habitat and 8.6 miles of stream and river riparian vegetation.

Protected and Restored Habitat Footnote 1
2015 2016 2017
Acres set aside and protected 3,336.8 acres 3,656 acres 8,309 acres
Acres of restored habitat 731.3 acres 748.1 acres 1,269 acres
Miles of stream and river riparian vegetation protected 8.6 miles 8.6 miles 8.6 miles
  • 1. PG&E undertook these activities to meet various regulatory requirements.1

Protecting Birds

Since 2002, PG&E has made more than 33,000 existing power poles and towers bird-safe. In that time, we have also retrofitted more than 35,000 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)
2015 2016 2017
Poles Planned 2,000 2,000 2,000
Poles Completed 2,161 2,068 2,151
% Poles Completed 108% 103% 107%

Looking Ahead

As part of our environmental commitment, we will continue to look for ways to protect ecosystems 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.

Years of drought, extreme heat and 129 million dead trees have created challenging conditions in California. In the interest of public safety, and following the wildfires in 2017, PG&E is implementing additional precautionary measures intended to reduce the risk of wildfires as part of our Community Wildfire Safety Program. More information is available at https://www.pgecommitment.com.

Additionally, Pacific Gas and Electric Company will be developing its third HCP, a 34-county multiple-region HCP that will cover the remainder of its service area. Once this HCP is approved and permitted, PG&E will be the only energy provider in the United States to have its entire electric and natural gas operations covered with regional plans and in full compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act.