SelecTree: Frequently Asked Questions


How can I be less affected by tree crew activity?

Make sure that vehicles and lawn or garden equipment are removed from the area where the trees are to be pruned to avoid damage from falling limbs. Also:

  • Unlock your gate when you know the crews are in the area.
  • Make sure animals are leashed or secured.
  • Discuss tree pruning or removal options with the inspector.
  • Work with the inspector to discuss directional pruning.

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Which overhead power lines are you trying to protect with vegetation pruning?

Typically, only high-voltage overhead power lines are cleared of vegetation. These are the lines in the highest position on power poles. The words "High Voltage" are marked on poles or crossarms with these lines. (See diagram)


How can I help?

Be cooperative with the inspectors and tree trimmers. They will try to answer your questions the best they can. When the crews arrive, they need free and clear access to the trees to be pruned. They also appreciate having animals restrained, so that they can work without interruption.


Does pruning spread disease?

There is no evidence that pruning trees spreads disease. Utility companies require contractors to disinfect their tools between locations, as appropriate or as recommended by state and local agencies.


Do I have to give you permission to prune?

When our inspection staff identifies tree pruning or pole clearing work to be done on your property, you will be notified. Your permission is not required, because state law mandates that we maintain our lines, and keep them safe and hazard-free. If a tree must be removed, we will request your permission in writing. However, in emergency situations, we will take the appropriate action to make the situation safe.


Aren't you trespassing if you come onto my property?

The utility is legally required to maintain its facilities. Utility franchise, easements and rights of ways are often conveyed in the deed to a property. In addition, as a condition of electric service to your home, you must allow the utility to have access to your property for maintenance at all reasonable times. Therefore, they have the right to access their facilities, as necessary, to properly maintain their facilities. If you have questions, contact your utility company.

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Can I get wood chips?

Yes. Our contractors are always looking for customers to accept wood chips. This is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the wood chips. Wood chips make great mulch, keep weeds down and keep trees moist. mulch, keep weeds down and keep trees moist.

You can ask the tree-pruning contractor if the wood chips are available at the time of pruning, call the contact person listed on the door hanger or contact your utility company.

A load of chips is about 10 cubic yards of mixed tree material.


Why would you prune my trees and not my neighbor's?

There are many reasons, but usually the main ones are that your neighbor's tree does not affect the power lines or the lines are not high-voltage lines.


How do you decide which trees to prune?

Trees that require pruning are those that currently, or will within a year, encroach on high-voltage power lines. Tree inspectors assess the location of trees and their growth rate. In addition, we take into consideration limb configuration and potential wind conditions. If you believe that a tree poses a danger to lines, please contact your utility company to arrange an inspection.


How do you decide how much to prune?

The amount of pruning necessary is prescribed by a qualified utility forester, based on tree growth and structure, wind sway and line sag. Factors that influence the amount and type of pruning necessary include species of tree, environmental factors, irrigation, proximity of the tree to a line and line configuration. As always, we also need to include a reasonable margin of safety above the absolute minimum clearance requirements.

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What is a line clearance tree contractor?

A line clearance tree contractor is a tree-pruning company that has an ongoing line clearance safety program, as defined by the federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This program must include ongoing training programs, and continual equipment maintenance programs to ensure tools are non-conductive for workers who routinely work near high-voltage power lines.

Many independent tree trimmers claim they are "line clearance certified" because they once worked for a qualified line clearance tree company. However, certification is not transferable between companies. The utility employs only qualified line clearance tree contractors.

A homeowner should never hire a private tree trimmer to work within 6 feet of high-voltage power lines.


Is this the same as a certified arborist?

No. Arborists who are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture are knowledgeable and qualified in the care and maintenance of trees. This designation does not certify them to work close to power lines.


A tree is growing into my service drop. Isn't this a hazard?

The service drop is the electrical line that runs from the utility pole to your home or business and is typically not high voltage. This line only serves you and is not typically pruned by the utility company. If you think tree branches are straining or abrading your service drop, contact your utility company. Care should be taken by anyone clearing trees near service drops, because, although the lines may be low voltage, an electrical contact and injury or death may still occur.

What about tree houses?

If any part of a tree holding a tree house is within 10 feet of a power line, it is too close, and the risk of electrocution to children playing in the tree house is very high. Make sure that children cannot reach the lines with a pole or any other object. If in doubt, call your utility company to have the situation checked.

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Why won't the utility put lines underground and spare the trees?

Undergrounding of lines sounds like an aesthetic and safe alternative to overhead lines, and sometimes it is. But undergrounding comes with an extremely high price tag, coupled with longer outages and more difficult repairs in the event of a power failure. Many utilities support efforts to underground existing overhead lines in areas where there will be general public benefits from the undergrounding.

You should find out where underground facilities are located before you dig on your property. Call Dig Alert 811 at least two working days before you dig. Also see website www.call811.com


Why don't you just remove my tree(s) so you don't have to prune it?

Removal of trees is decided by specific standards. If your tree(s) falls within these standards the utility will remove it at no cost to the customer. If you would like the utility to consider removal of your tree(s) you can contact your utility company.


Why don't you prune my tree more so you don't have to come back so often?

In most cases trees are pruned to achieve clearances between power lines and vegetation that will keep the tree in compliance with the law for 2-3 years and not adversely affect the health of the tree. If you would like more clearance for your tree to reduce the frequencies they are pruned you can contact your utility company.


Will the utility remove my tree or can they only prune trees?

Removal of trees is decided by specific standards. If your tree(s) falls within these standards it will be removed at no cost to the customer. If you would like the utility to consider removal of your tree(s) please contact your utility company.

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California Utility Contact Information

California Energy Commission

California Energy Commission

Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Website: PG&E
Phone: (800) PGE-5000

Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Website: SMUD
Phone: (888) 742-7683

San Diego Gas and Electric

Website: SDGE
Phone: (800) 411-SDGE

Southern California Edison

Website: Southern California Edison
Phone: (800) 655-4555

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Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata' - photo

Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata'

Not recommended for Southern California or desert areas. Needs little pruning…

Photo by J. Reimer and B. Hoover