Nevada County judge halts PG&E tree removal |

Nevada County judge halts PG&E tree removal

Residents hoping to stop PG&E’s plan to cut more than 260 trees in Nevada City got a temporary win on Tuesday.

Nevada County Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderson ordered the city to withdraw encroachment permits issued to PG&E and its contractors, and to halt all current cutting within city boundaries, including on private property.

After receiving the ruling, the city informed PG&E and its contractors that the permits would be suspended until further order of the court, Nevada City Attorney Crissy Hodgson said.

The parties will have a hearing on Nov. 6.

Trees may still be removed if agreed to in writing by all parties.

The ruling comes after Lorraine Reich, attorney for citizen group Save Nevada County Trees, filed a petition seeking to force the Nevada City Council to “launch a robust opposition” to PG&E’s plans, alleging by not doing so it violated several city ordinances.

Attorneys for the city and PG&E argued Nevada City does not have jurisdiction over the matter.

“As there are significant unresolved issues pending, it is the best interest of all parties to stay the cutting and/or removal of the trees in question pending a resolution,” the ruling states.

While the court recognizes PG&E’s claim that it is overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission, which means challenges to its authorized actions must be put to the state commission, “nothing presented to the Court verifies that the specific actions challenged are authorized by the PUC,” the ruling stated.

According to the ruling, other aspects the court may have jurisdiction over include the scope of easements to permit access and city actions alleged to be in violation of state and local ordinances.

“I think what this does is buy time for more discussion and give the city and the members of the community a seat at the table to have real, good-faith negotiations with PG&E,” said Matt Osypowski, organizer for Save Nevada County Trees. “So far this has been done with threats and force and bluster, and I feel like this court decision gives space for this to be a different sort of process.”

The group has maintained that PG&E’s approach has been heavy handed, and that other mitigation measures could be taken without removing so many trees. A city-contracted arborist seemed to lend credence to that claim last week when a report found 16 of the 38 reviewed trees could be saved.

“There’s trees in this town that nobody would contest,” Osypowski said. “This requires them to take a more negotiated approach… it sets a precedent that PG&E needs to approach communities respectfully. While taking line safety very seriously, they need to also take the historical context and needs of the city very seriously.”

Save Nevada County Trees members have remained in a blue Atlas cedar tree on Broad Street for about a week, hoping to drum up public support for the trees.

“I’m elated at the news and I have great faith in the courts of California to follow the law and to maintain the civil rights of the people, including property rights and the right to pass ordinances,” Reich said. “I believe PG&E has abused its discretion in allowing tree cutting so severely like we witnessed on Highway 49 between Grass Valley and Nevada City. That’s the kind of severe cutting they’d like to do.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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