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PG&E threatens residents with legal action

Original post made on Jan 23, 2013

Residents who want a large Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipeline removed from their backyards -- a line similar to the one which exploded in San Bruno -- have received a letter threatening legal action if they do not comply with efforts to strip their backyards of trees and bushes that sit over the pipeline right-of-way.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 11:28 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by David
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Typical corporate bullying tactics.

Posted by WTF guys
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm

....Except everyone who bought a house there have known for years that they live in near proximity to a gas pipeline. This would've been in disclosures. Now they're crying foul?

Posted by Mark
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Gosh golly --- I wonder if PG&E hadn't been LYING and DECEIVING the public about their "safety inspections" (makes me laugh just to type that!), then MAYBE PG&E would KNOW if this pipeline is SAFE OR NOT!!! ... now it's like this from PG&E: WE didn't do safety inspections on our pipelines AS THE LAW STATES THAT WE MUST, but now we want THE PUBLIC to pay for our unethical, felonious and greedy behavior! SURE!!! Like THAT'S FAIR!!! Oh -- and I'm looking forward to paying PG&E YET AGAIN to perform "safety inspections" on their pipelines THAT THEY'VE ALREADY BEEN PAID TO PERFORM BUT EITHER LIED ABOUT THE RESULTS OR LIED ABOUT EVER PERFORMING THE SAFETY INSPECTIONS!!! Damned liars ... PG&E is Number One! in my book (middle fingers of both hands are pointed in their direction)

Posted by Yes let's wait and see
a resident of The Crossings
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:21 pm

You are complaining that PG&E has dishonest employees. OK, let's say they do. That probably means that they have not monitored that pipeline that is right next to your house.
You say it should not be right next to your house. OK, let's say it shouldn't - but it is.

So you are going to just wait and see. I think some folks in San Bruno might be suggesting it is not a good plan.

Why not let them monitor it and demand your right to see the inspections? If the inspections don't look good, start a fight to get it moved.

Posted by Tom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm

"PG&E's legal department will become involved if residents do not cooperate with the utility company's plans for clearing a path over the pipeline to allow monitoring using laser-equipped aircraft."

Laser equipped aircraft, that is hysterical!!!

Let them prove in court that this "safety scheme" has a rat's ass chance of being effective...

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

It seems some people don't understand how easements work.

If the people who bought these houses didn't pay attention, or didn't understand, is that PG&E's fault?

We need utilties people. The wires and pipes need to go someplace.

These people need to suck it up. Frankly I'd be more intersted in moving than keeping trees over the pipeline running through my backyard.

Posted by Really?
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:41 pm

So the work they just completed moving the pipeline on Middlefield cost a BILLION dollars a mile? Please.

Posted by Tom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 23, 2013 at 2:55 pm

@Otto Maddox: the reason PG&E would like to "clear" the land above the pipeline is to gradually replace the old corroding pipes -- all of it. This way they can avoid new safety laws restricting the location of such pipes in residential areas, and to avoid the costs of re-laying a new pipeline in a safe location. PG&E wants to save money.

The easement rule should, and will, be superceded by the new public safety laws. PG&E will need to "suck it up".

By the way, I don't live anywhere near this situation.

Posted by Michael
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm

They need to move the pipeline to middlefield road.
I am not going to get into the name calling or who knew what, when.

The common sense thing to do is replace the pipeline... in a place that is safe...

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I know one of the families affected really well, so what I'm about to say is based on first hand information.

First off, PG&E quoted the replacement of the line as one MILLION dollars per foot. I believe that it's a typo. They also told the families that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to get any other easement from the city. If you refer to the website quoted in the article, you will see a letter from the mayor requesting that the line be moved and granting an easement.

For all of you who say "suck it up", that when these folks purchased their homes, they were alerted to the pipeline in their title reports, etc. Just to clear that up - to a person, the title reports simply state that there is a gas line easement on the property. Well guess what? We all have to grant PG&E access to the little 2" pipeline in each of our yards, which means we all have an easement. We also have easements for the city for water, etc. The size and scope of the line is never mentioned - I've seen a few of them. In one case, a POLE for PG&E is mentioned - nothing about a 2 FOOT PIPELINE.

PG&E has done nothing regarding this pipeline for 60 YEARS! In the case of my friend, they actually trimmed the offending tree just a few years ago. They were UP IN THE TREE THAT WAS AGAINST THEIR OWN EASEMENT RESTRICTIONS!

PG&E is not concerned in the least with the "safety" of the line. They are only concerned with the bottom line. They need to be sure that the decisions they make will still allow for fat bonuses for the "concerned" CEO, etc, as well as keeping the stock prices high. They have resorted to bullying, telling ridiculous lies, and using scare tactics. This is easily solved - it just might cost them more money. The CEO, Tony Early, showed up in commercials regularly saying that they wanted to change the way they are perceived. Their focus was on "safety". That is the biggest lie of all.

For those of you who still want to believe that the homeowners are the ones who just didn't "do their homework" and that they have to "suck it up", my comments likely won't change your mind because you want it to be their fault. Truth is, PG&E is the slimiest corporation that I have ever seen, and their tactics are beyond appalling and fraudulent.

Check out the website You will see a detailed, revealing account of the lengths to which PG&E will go - and has gone - to keep as much money in their coffers as possible, without any real thought to the safety and rights of the homeowners.

Posted by Curious George
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:55 pm

There are two quotes with respect to moving/replacing the pipe posted above:

(1) "$1 billion per mile" in the article and
(2) "one MILLION dollars per foot" (which is over $5 trillion per mile) in a comment

Are both of these typos? They are ridiculously high.

Posted by Curious George
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Sorry, I should have written "...(which is over $5 BILLION per mile)"

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Curious George -

You're right - it is ridiculously high. The rep from PG&E quoted ONE MILLION DOLLARS PER FOOT. This is not made up. It was actually said at one of the homeowner meetings. This is what we're talking about when we say that they lie to suit their needs. I only made the adjustment to what the article said because the ACTUAL words he used were ONE MILLION DOLLARS PER FOOT. If we're going to fight them, we have to be accurate and not just throw numbers and words around. The same man said that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to get an easement from the city. These people are not to be trusted. EVER.

Posted by Curious George
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I'm not at all suggesting that you made the figure up. I was simply pointing out that whomever gave that figure either misspokeor was misheard. We'll assume it was unintentional, much like my calculation error. In any case, I came across this:

"In August 2011, PG&E submitted a plan that it estimates will cost $2.2 billion for high-priority pipeline testing, repairs, and renovations over the next few years."

That is an estimate for an entire project. There are additional reports by the DRA which go into detail regarding what is involved in these types of projects.

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm

He did not misspeak. He knew exactly what he was saying. This is a man who has worked for PG&E for over 20 years. You don't "misspeak" when this has been your job for that many years. I do not give these people the benefit of the doubt. My friends have filled me in on every step that has taken place, and trust me when I say, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They will stop at NOTHING to get things to go their way and save money wherever they can. The rep's goal was to imply that there is absolutely no other option. This is blatantly untrue, as is most of the rhetoric that comes out of their mouths.

Posted by kman
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Why do we even need gas anymore? We have electrical items that can replace all items needing gas.

I Say get ride of this BOMB underneath our streets.

Posted by Mr Advice
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm

PG&E really stands for: Pacific Graft & Extortion!!!

Posted by Scott Lamb
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm

This article is terrible. Uncritically writing hearsay like "party A says party B said X" is not reporting. It is gossip. I expect better. Was a Mountain View Voice reporter actually at all these meetings? If not, why not? If so, why doesn't that reporter tell us if the allegations on are true?

* Did the PG&E representative say repeatedly that pipeline relocation would cost $1 million per foot (over $5 billion per mile) as written on or $1 billion per mile as this article said residents said? How does that compare to what other pipeline relocations have cost?

* Did the PG&E representative claim it would be impossible to get an easement for relocation from the city? Did the mayor offer such an easement?

* Did the PG&E representative say that residential backyards are the best place for a pipeline and that residents are easier to control than a city?

* Did the PG&E representative claim that the easement forbids trees? What does an independent legal expert think or, failing that, what is the text of the easement?

And why am I reading an article uploaded on January 23rd about a letter PG&E sent on December 6th requiring action by December 19th? Isn't this last year's news?

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jan 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Scott Lamb -

Did you even read my post? The PG&E rep said ONE MILLION DOLLARS PER FOOT. Pipeline relocations are nowhere near 5.2 BILLION dollars per mile. Several million is closer to the correct amount. Look it up.

Did you go to the website? The copy of the letter from the mayor is there. Look it up.

The rep said that it is "IMPOSSIBLE" to get easements from the city.

The rep said that the easement prohibits trees. When confronted with the actual easement paperwork (original copies), another rep (an honest one, apparently) said that no, it doesn't actually prohibit trees. However, when the bully rep heard this, he admitted this, but said that they would just come in and trench the entire easement, thus killing the trees anyway. Their problem solved.

You're reading this article now because the families involved wanted to wait until everyone was back from Christmas vacations and kids were back in school. It was vital to them that the attention needed on this situation was garnered, not lost in the holiday rush.

You, sir, are a man who didn't bother reading other responses and didn't take the time to actually visit the website. If you had, you would have seen the Mayor's letter, as well as other pertinent information that is backed up with the proper codes, etc. Did your post make you feel knowledgeable? I cannot, for the life of me, understand why you would ask all of these questions when the information is right there for you.

And as an aside, I think that Mr. DeBolt did a fine job with this article. Thank you Mr. DeBolt.

Posted by Scott Lamb
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 23, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Yes, Frustrated, I read your post and much of that website, and I understand your frustration. I recognize that the states answers to most of my questions, and those answers are appalling.

What I'm asking is for the Voice to add their own experience as a neutral observer at some (all?) of these meetings, do other fact-checking of statements where possible, ask PG&E to respond to these charges, challenge things either party says that don't make sense, etc. In short, journalism.

For example, I don't understand why the article doesn't say "PG&E repeatedly told residents during initial meetings that the cost would be $1 million per foot (put differently: $5 billion per mile). We contacted [industry expert X], who estimated the cost at [much lower number]. When we raised this concern with PG&E, they ... [I don't know...refused to comment, revised their figure to something less ridiculous, denied ever saying a number, whatever]." instead of "Goldwater and some of his neighbors say PG&E officials initially told residents that it would cost $1 billion per mile to move the pipeline". The follow-up would make the statement much more persuasive.

Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Jan 23, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Scott Lamb -

I understand what you're saying. However, the idea that anyone, let alone a newspaper, would get an honest, straight answer from PG&E is ludicrous. I am very close friends with one of the families, and you would not believe the stories even if you heard them first-hand. At this point, "investigative journalism" is pointless. Mr. DeBolt has been in on their story from the beginning. He has attended the meetings, spoken with the neighbors, and, I am certain, HAS talked to PG&E. They are not to be reasoned with, nor do they know the meaning of the word TRUTH. What Mr. DeBolt has done is told the story from the neighbors' side. I have to commend him for being so willing to get their story out there and for keeping it in the public's eye. If people like him didn't at least speak for the neighbors, PG&E would be the only side to be heard, since they can afford the commercial spots, etc. It would not matter one iota if he spent hours doing what you suggest - PG&E would make it a "they said, we said" situation. At the meeting held at the library in October, when the City brought together the neighbors and PG&E for the first time as a group, the answer to all of the neighbors' questions was "no one here is authorized to answer that". And when they voiced their concerns, the PG&E rep's (read bully's) stock answer was "we'll agree to disagree". This was supposed to be a meeting to try and clear things up and let the neighbors voice their concerns. Instead it turned into a bullying session with closed ears from PG&E. Maybe if you had been in on this situation from the beginning, you would have a clearer understanding of what is going on here. This corporation is using a few select neighborhoods as their "pilot program" to see if they can get out of their tough spot with the least amount of money. If they succeed, the rest of the state will go through the same thing. If Mtn. View can nip their greed in the bud, the rest of the state will see similar outcomes. That is why it's so important to keep this out there and not stop talking about it - even if PG&E just "agrees to disagree". I hope that you are getting a clearer picture of just what is at stake here. The most massive ego, the greediest executives, that we have ever seen are running amok. And they have to be brought up short at all costs.

Posted by Steve
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 24, 2013 at 1:16 am

I have read both this article and the web site.

Upon reading at least the one side, I am disgusted with PG&E. Have the homeowners gone to the PUC? It sounds like they need to have a disinterested party listening in ... or videotape the next meeting.

Another thought that I had; if PG&E moves the pipeline, it means that they will have to put it in according to the CURRENT requirements, whereas, if they don't, they can get away with unregulated pipes.

Posted by Scott Lamb
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 24, 2013 at 7:59 am

PG&E doesn't need to give honest, straight answers for investigative journalism to be effective. In fact, it's when one (or more) of the involved parties involved is being deceptive that investigative journalism is most important. I don't trust PG&E, but to be honest, a reporter's account of events is much more compelling than that of the residents involved, or, worse, indirectly from them via you. I don't think you or Dennis Goldwater would lie, but people emotionally close to the situation often misremember, misinterpret, exaggerate, and incorrectly assume motives. Your initial statements about me demonstrate that. In contrast, reporters are meant to be unbiased, trained observers who stick to the facts (except for well-marked opinions) and are well aware of libel laws. I should be able to trust what they say.

But let's say that for the most part I believe what you and are saying. I'm a resident and voter in Mountain View, and a PG&E customer. (The last not exactly by choice - as we all know, they have a monopoly.) I'm listening. What are you asking me to do?

Posted by Max Hauser
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 24, 2013 at 9:44 am

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Thanks to Scott Lamb for contributing measured and thoughtful criticisms about the article, amid all the emotionalism here.

Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

The PUC is in bed with PG&E: you won't get any help there.

The RICO statutes apply to PG&E in a very big way. They should be used.

Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

The line needs to be moved away from the houses or PG&E should buy all of the houses at current market prices assuming no pipeline.
Mountain View needs to help these people, to get started speak to the city Counsel which can be easily done at the start of the biweekly Counsel sessions. Get started now.

Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Where does personal responsibility play into this?

You buy a house with a gas pipeline running underneath it. With an easement.

Then complain about it later? If you don't like having the pipeline there then move.

Moving the pipeline just moves the problem to another generation. Eventually someone will want to build where the pipeline is moved to. Then what? Same situation.. just 50 to 100 years from now. People crying when PG&E enforces that easement.. blah blah blah.

I really don't care if PG&E is trying to save money. That's better for me as a customer of theirs.

Posted by Tom
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Otto: personal responsibility has nothing to do with this situation.

Instead, it is corporate responsibility! It is grossly "irresponsible" for PG&E to claim that they can adequately monitor the high pressure 12-inch gas line, for micro-fractures, using an aircraft at 2000 feet equipped with ground penetrating lasers! PG&E has a moral and legal obligation to move the pipe.

Please: sit back and watch. PG&E will move the pipe.

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