Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has announced the renewal of its avian protection plan (APP), a voluntary program designed to protect migratory, threatened and endangered birds while reducing customer outages. In recognition of PG&E's ongoing, industry-leading avian protection efforts, the utility also announced today that it has received Audubon California's first-ever Corporate Achievement Award.
"We are fortunate to serve an area that is rich in wildlife and we're committed to protecting California's natural heritage," said Steven Kline, vice president, corporate environmental and federal affairs at PG&E Corporation. "Our Avian Protection Plan is a leading example of how utilities can partner with state and federal agencies and conservation groups to protect California's biodiversity."
PG&E's Avian Protection Plan
PG&E's service area spans over 74,000 square miles and is home to wildlife and other important natural resources. This includes more than 300 species of migratory birds that live in northern and central California either permanently or seasonally, with the Pacific Flyway migrations of millions of waterfowl. Since utility poles and power lines are often the highest and most prominent point in a landscape, birds often seek them out for perching, hunting and nesting. When birds come in direct contact with live electric wires they can become electrocuted, which may cause electric outages and fires. PG&E developed the Avian Protection Plan to better protect migratory, threatened and endangered birds while improving safety and reliability for its customers.
Part of the program, which has been in place since 2002, outfits all new poles and replacement poles in bird-sensitive locations with bird-safe equipment. Since the program was first launched, PG&E has retrofitted over 23,330 utility poles and towers. PG&E has also pioneered such cutting-edge practices as long-lining helicopter techniques to install special bird flight diverters in hard-to-reach coastal locations like the Central Coast, which is home to the endangered California Condor. Key components of the APP focus on reducing the risk of power line collisions and electrocutions, including: employee training and compliance; making utility poles bird-safe; and public education and partnerships.
For the past 25 years, PG&E has led various bird species conservation initiatives and is a member of both the San Francisco Bay and Central Valley Joint Ventures which serve to protect, restore, increase and enhance all types of wetlands, riparian habitat to benefit birds, fish and other wildlife. The utility is also a founding member of the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC), a collaboration between utilities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that began nearly 20 years ago. PG&E has developed tailored plans to protect bald eagles at its facilities as part of a long-term, statewide effort. As part of this program, PG&E has surveyed more than 50 bald eagle nesting territories and provided scientific research and data to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, PG&E's hydroelectric watershed lands support about 25 percent of the state's entire breeding population of bald eagles.
Audubon California's Corporate Achievement Award
PG&E also announced that it will be recognized today at Audubon California's Morris Doyle Award Luncheon with the organization's first-ever Corporate Achievement Award. The award recognizes PG&E's significant achievements in specifically protecting California birds and important habitat including the utility's migratory bird protection program, the extensive installation of bird-safe equipment in Big Sur to protect the California Condor and PG&E's ongoing efforts to protect the Peregrine Falcon, among other initiatives.
"In reviewing significant contributions to preserve California's key bird habitat in the last few years, it became apparent to the Morris Doyle Awards Committee that some of the largest contributions to bird habitat conservation were being made not only by individuals, but by companies and groups of volunteers. In order to highlight those important achievements, we've added a 'Corporate Achievement Award' and 'Volunteer Award'," said Graham Chisholm, conservation director for Audubon California. "When evaluating the organizations that made the largest contributions, PG&E's name kept rising to the top of our list. PG&E's efforts to protect birds and habitat in California are exemplary and we hope that their achievements will inspire other companies to help protect and restore critical landscapes in California as well."
The Morris Doyle Award is given every other year by Audubon California to commemorate an individual's or organization's commitment to bird conservation and wetlands protection in California. The Award was named after Audubon California's first convening Chair, Morris Doyle, who left a legacy of conservation and stewardship for California wetlands that resonate with Audubon's mission.
As one of California's largest landowners, PG&E is committed to protecting California's natural resources. In addition to PG&E's Avian Protection Plan, the utility recently launched an Operations and Maintenance Habitat Conservation Plan -- a new program that allows for a regional, activity-based approach to comply with state and federal Endangered Species Acts. The utility has also partnered with the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council to permanently protect 140,000 acres of watershed lands associated with PG&E's hydroelectric system -- one of the largest individual dedications of private lands to conservation. PG&E's Land Conservation Commitment protects a broad range of public beneficial uses including natural habitat of fish, wildlife and plants; preservation of open space; and public outdoor recreation, among others.
Audubon California's Corporate Achievement Award is the latest in a long and distinguished history of recognition for PG&E's environmental programs. With more than 150 environmental honors in total, the company has also recently been named Environmental Business of the Year by the Planning and Conservation League, recognized by the Natural Resources Defense Council for its environmental leadership, won the Pacific Forest Trust Award in Climate Protection and Forest Management Leadership, two Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Awards, and the Solar Electric Power Association's Solar Business Achievement and Solar Portfolio Leadership awards.