Skepticism should continue

PG&E’s olive branch to the community is a good start, but citizens should remain wary

A Pacific Gas & Electric Co. representative was right to acknowledge that the company bungled its work removing hundreds of trees in Oroville last February. That long-overdue admission came during the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission meeting in Chico this week, and it’s especially timely given the plans to cut down a large number of trees in Chico.

Spokesman Joe Wilson was referring to the felling of beloved heritage trees at the Oroville Cemetery (see Ken Smith’s report on page 9). The plan to chop down those trees drew fierce opposition from a wide cross-section of the community and many days of protests, including some folks going as far as sleeping in the trees to keep the chainsaws away. It even prompted the formation of a grassroots tree-preservation group called Save Oroville Trees, and the battle ended up at Butte County Superior Court.

The problem is that PG&E took a hard stance during the situation, or, as Wilson put it, its approach was “too uniform, too rigid.” Given the clear message from the community, the company ought to have listened to the concerns and engaged in conversations on alternatives to axing the old trees. That never happened.

But PG&E has turned over a new leaf, it seems. Its participation in the forum in Chico this week shows that the company is taking the community’s concerns seriously. Moreover, its offer to plant three trees for every one removed is a show of good faith.

However, we’re skeptical that the power company has exhausted all efforts to look for alternatives, and we urge the tree watchdogs to keep up their efforts and for the private property owners affected by the plan to be wary as well.