Court filing aims to stop PG&E tree cutting in Nevada City
After taking to the trees earlier this week, residents hoping to stop to PG&E’s plan to cut more than 260 trees in Nevada City are now taking their fight to the courtroom.
Lorraine Reich, attorney for the citizen group Save Nevada County Trees, has filed a petition which seeks to have the court force the Nevada City Council to “launch a robust opposition” to PG&E’s plans, to withdraw the encroachment permit granted to the company, and to hold a public meeting where participants can learn about their rights.
The group alleges that by approving the permit and failing to oppose PG&E, the council violated their tree preservation ordinance, historical district ordinance, scenic corridor ordinance, underground utility district ordinance, and did not conduct a meaningful public meeting.
PG&E public information officers could not be reached for comment Friday, though the company has maintained to the council they have the authority through a California Public Utilities Commission resolution that requires it to remove dead and sick trees near power lines.
Nevada City Attorney Crissy Hodgson agreed the city had no legal authority to interfere with PG&E’s vegetation management and disputed the contention that the city did not hold adequate pubic meetings.
“The City Planning Commission and the City Council read and heard numerous public comments from citizens opposed to PG&E’s removal of some of the trees at 3 separate public meetings,” Hodgson said in an email.
The filing comes as a city-contracted arborist report this week found 16 of the 38 trees the council asked to review could be saved from being cut.
According to the arborist, Zeno Acton, some trees may have been erroneously interpreted as needing to be cut due to the presence of pests and diseases.
“One particular concern I noted is that the mere presence of some pests and diseases may have been inappropriately interpreted on some trees by PG&E contractors. The concern is that such an observation does not necessarily mean the tree is significantly weakened nor does that necessarily equate to an increased likelihood of failure,” the report states.
The council will have a closed session on the filing before their regular meeting Wednesday. Discussion or action on the arborist report or PG&E’s plans is not on the next meeting’s regular agenda.
Mayor Erin Minett could not be reached for comment.
According to Hodgson, the city expects a response from PG&E‘s representatives early next week.
“We’re definitely optimistic about the injunction,”said Matt Osypowski, organizer for the group. “There’s no guarantees. PG&E obviously has a large legal department and is used to handling this kind of case,”
Osypowski said the group has a multi-pronged approach to the cause and will rely on direct action, public pressure, and city government along with the courts.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
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