News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Columbia Gas vs. Harmless Adorable Oxygen-Producing Trees: Let The Battle Royale Begin!

So you finally "move on up" to that de-luxe home in North Reston. Astronaut schools! The fancypants Giant with the handheld scanners, like we're already living in 2011! You're so excited about this enormous sea change you don't really think about that "easement" they keep prattling on about at the settlement. Then you realize the gas company wants to chop down 53 trees on your property, plus "dozens" of others in the neighborhood. What to do? Hold a meeting, of course!

Columbia Gas Transmission is scheduled to remove dozens of trees from a North Reston neighborhood next week, but residents have arranged to meet with representatives from Columbia and the county on Friday morning to discuss alternatives to the plan.

"The neighborhood feels like those are their trees," said Carleen Basik, who lives in the neighborhood, which is located on Bright Pond Lane off Reston Parkway. About 53 trees on Basik's property are marked for removal, and dozens more are scheduled to be removed from her neighborhood, she said.

Columbia has a right-of-way that runs through the Bright Pond neighborhood, and that right-of-way contains a pipeline that carries natural gas to customers along the East Coast. The gas company notified residents on Oct. 10 that it would be clearing the right-of-way by removing trees and other plants later this month.

Kelly Merritt, communications manager for Columbia's parent company, said the company understood the concerns of the Bright Pond neighborhood, but the company has to "maintain a clear corridor for our pipelines to operate." "By keeping the corridors clear and removing trees that encroach within the corridor, we're helping to maintain that safety and can better monitor the pipelines," Merritt said.
The same clearcutting sort of thing happened in Herndon a few years back, which led to the creation of a Web site which is largely comprised of links to stories about gas pipeline explosions, which... um... sort of proves the gas company's point about keeping the easements cleared for safety reasons. Right? But then there's this astute comment.
I don't understand how they have large parking lots over their easement but will not let trees overhang into their sacred grounds.
Parking lots don't kill people. Trees kill people. Well, trees and undermaintained gas transmission pipelines. Same diff.


  1. Thanks for mentioning the web site As mentioned on the website the real issue is safety. Cutting or trimming trees is a very visible action that Columbia can point to, but it has no bearing on the major causes of catastrophic failures in older pipelines. To quote a member of the U.S. Dept of Transportation's Technical Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Standards Committee in an article from the Oct issue of the Ohio magazine, Columbus Monthly: "This issue is kind of a red herring,.... It's a lot of effort by the pipeline companies to do something that's visible to the public, something very proactive that makes it look like they're doing something for safety. But when you actually look at what causes pipeline leaks or explosions nationally, the problem has nothing to do with trees. It has to do with poor maintenance."

    Removing trees that are not over the pipeline and cutting trees in half that are not on the pipeline easement contributes very little to safety. Columbia Gas is NOT required to do aerial surveys of their pipeline. It is not better than other methods of monitoring just cheaper.

    For more information:

  2. It strikes me that, to avoid the root growth problem, the gas companies could develop a trenching-like piece of equipment that would cut any roots near their pipelines. This could easily be done on their already-cleared right-of-way. It might, but probably wouldn't, kill a few trees beyond the ROW, but it would be a much more surgical way to solve the root problem.

  3. I agree with Anonymous. This is an action to show effort. Since cutting overhead branches does not remove the roots, the action certainly does nothing but allow someone to visually inspect whether digging is occuring. Since digging has been occuring in my neighborhood my a utility contractor, in the pipeline area but without any pipeline oversight for days, and in clear view, I have to think that knowledgeable neighbors are better than pruning. I don't know tree law in Virginia well enough, but cutting trees like that could prove to have created an equal hazardous situation.

  4. Has anyone heard of any updates to these gas lines? We are likely purchasing a house right next to an easement.


(If you don't see comments for some reason, click here).