Posted on Categories WaterTags , , Leave a comment on PG&E: Toxic tank in Santa Rosa best left alone

PG&E: Toxic tank in Santa Rosa best left alone

A huge underground tank full of toxic black sludge in downtown Santa Rosa should be left where it lies because it is too difficult to safely remove and poses little threat to neighboring Santa Rosa Creek, according to the Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
The utility has also concluded that the contamination on the site of its former manufactured gas plant is immobile enough that it does not need to install a costly barrier designed to prevent waste material from migrating toward the creek, arguing it would be too disruptive and unnecessary.
The hands-off approach outlined for the Santa Rosa City Council last week represents a departure from the aggressive cleanup efforts that PG&E has undertaken on the property in recent years, which have resulted in the removal of tons of similar material.
But PG&E’s environmental consultants say the new strategy is justified because years of water-quality monitoring data shows that neither groundwater in the area nor the creek are at risk of contamination.
“The stuff is immobile. It hasn’t gone anywhere over the past 100 years and we have over 25 years of data,” Max Reyhani, principal engineer with Terra Pacific Group, told the council. “I think that’s a pretty good indication of the stability of site conditions.”
PG&E’s latest plan still needs the approval of the North Coast Water Quality Control Board, which has been overseeing cleanup of the property for nearly 30 years. The City Council, which has no direct authority over the cleanup of the site, has requested regular status reports on the downtown project.
Water board staff expressed confidence that continuing to monitor groundwater in the area made more sense than requiring the removal of the tank and material at this point.
“With the monitoring, I am extremely confident that we’re not going to have an issue that actually manages to migrate to the creek (over the next decade),” said Craig Hunt, supervisor of the water board’s cleanup division.
But not everyone is so sanguine about the situation.
Allen Hatheway, author of a 2012 textbook on the subject of cleaning up former gas plant sites, called the claims that the tank can’t be removed “nonsense.”
Read more via PG&E: Toxic tank in Santa Rosa best left | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , Leave a comment on SolarCity accuses utilities of slowing home-battery project

SolarCity accuses utilities of slowing home-battery project

David R. Baker, SFGATE.COM

For more than two years, SolarCity Corp. has been trying to launch an experiment that could change the way we power our homes.

The San Mateo company has installed battery packs in more than 100 houses throughout California, each pack linked to rooftop solar panels. The lithium-ion batteries, made by Tesla Motors, store electricity from the panels during the day for use at night.

That combination – solar on the roof, batteries in the basement – could one day revolutionize the energy industry, undercutting traditional utility companies.

So the utilities, SolarCity says, are fighting back.

California’s big electricity providers are dragging their feet on connecting the batteries to the grid and charging steep fees – nearly $3,700 per customer, in some cases – to do so, according to SolarCity.

via SolarCity accuses utilities of slowing home-battery project – SFGate.

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , ,

PG&E cuts down trees on Sonoma Mountain

Enviro Updates

This steep, clear-cut hillside drains down to a creek on the right
This steep, clear-cut hillside drains down to a creek on the right.

Chainsaws were roaring on Sonoma Mountain last week as PG&E moved ahead with its new policy of gradually removing all vegetation except grass from under and around high voltage lines. Trees being removed are on steep slopes, above streams, and in a Regional Parks-owned property, Sonoma Mountain Woodlands.
A new federal standard was enacted in 2006 to put pressure on utilities that had been negligent in maintaining vegetation near high voltage lines, causing fires and blackouts. Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has clarified that this policy does not require clear-cutting, PG&E’s long-term plans are now to eliminate all vegetation taller than three feet under and near the lines.
A new bare patch on hillside under the power lines
A new bare patch on hillside under the power lines.

High voltage lines run through some of the most scenic parts of Sonoma County, including Open Space District properties, Annadel State Park, and Shiloh Ranch Park. PG&E has trimmed old oaks, madrones and even redwoods in these line easements for over 50 years, keeping a generous safety margin of 25 feet between trees and lines, and there have never been any outages or fires.
A local group, SOS-Trees, has been negotiating with PG&E on behalf of affected property owners, who have been shocked at the extent of tree-removal which PG&E now wants.  Their website, at, contains information about PG&E vegetation management policies and stories of other communities that have opposed the new rules.
SOS-Trees website
FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff comments on clear-cutting by utilities

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , Leave a comment on PG&E intends to clear cut: Company says it will take up to 80 percent of trees for 39 miles

PG&E intends to clear cut: Company says it will take up to 80 percent of trees for 39 miles

The gloves have come off. After months of meetings and vague promises to “discuss” tree removal, PG&E told Oakmont and Bennett Valley residents on May 7 that it intends to clear cut the entire 39-mile-long, high voltage line that stretches from Petaluma to the Geysers. Steve Tankersley, head of the statewide vegetation management program told people at the meeting that the company intends to remove up to 4,000 trees between May 15 and June 15, and to finish the entire job by December.
The decision to clear cut is a significant departure from the company’s 50-year policy of examining and trimming trees that threaten power lines.
via The Kenwood Press – PG&E intends to clear cut.