By David Kligman
SAN FRANCISCO—Developing battery-powered bucket trucks to save fuel and eliminate harmful diesel exhaust while idling. Removing invasive weeds so that native plants will thrive and attract endangered butterflies. Re-routing high voltage power lines underground to keep them from harming California condors.
The winners of the Richard A. Clarke Environmental Leadership Awards were honored today (Oct. 25) at a ceremony at PG&E’s headquarters. Each finalist received $5,000 for the nonprofit of their choice. Other employees were recognized at the ceremony for their volunteer spirit, dedication to safety and commitment to diversity.
“Since I arrived at PG&E just over a year ago, I’ve been continually impressed with the commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility,” said Tony Earley, PG&E’s CEO, chairman and president. He was joined by PG&E President Chris Johns in congratulating the winners.
Janet Loduca, vice president of environmental at PG&E, said she’s proud to work at a company that takes the time to honor employees who have made a significant impact on improving the environment.
“We deliver some of the country’s cleanest energy, by promoting energy efficiency for our customers, by encouraging our suppliers to be more sustainable and by reducing our own environmental footprint,” she said.
These are the projects and the environmental innovations they represent that earned several PG&E employees one of the company’s most coveted awards:
- In Davis, the 13-member PG&E’s transportation services engineering team helped design the electric worksite idle management system, which allows a work truck’s equipment, including its bucket, to be operated electronically. The utility plans to use hundreds of these bucket trucks, which use a battery system to provide power and avoid idling diesel engines. That’s better for the environment and saves fuel costs. Altec Industries is building the work trucks for PG&E and other utilities at its green-fleet vehicle assembly facility in Dixon.
- In eastern Contra Costa County, PG&E senior environmental specialist Peter Beesley collaborated on a cooperative Safe Harbor Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage 12 acres of the utility’s property adjacent to the Antioch Dunes. PG&E removed invasive weeds through a combination of employee volunteer work and herbicides. As a result, invasive weed cover at the site was reduced, making the area more suitable for replanting the host plant for the endangered Lange’s metalmark butterfly.
- And in Monterey County, a PG&E team completed a project last year to reroute high-voltage power lines underground in a remote area near Big Sur. The work was done to protect the California condor, a large bird that nearly became extinct in the 1980s but whose numbers are now climbing due to captive breeding and conservation programs. Prior to the project, three condors were electrocuted from the same PG&E power line. The project was so successful that it was featured on the CBS Evening News last Christmas.
Beesley said he was honored to win. He chose the California Invasive Plant Council for his $5,000 award.
“I feel it’s a great accomplishment for the company,” he told Currents. “Conservation of species is extremely challenging but being able to partner with others makes us successful. It really shows PG&E’s leadership stance.”
Mike Best, PG&E’s avian protection program manager, said it was only natural for his team to donate its prize to the Ventana Wildlife Society, which monitored the birds during the construction. He said the group was ecstatic when they learned of the prize.
“For a small nonprofit like Ventana that’s a pretty good chunk of change,” Best said.
Brian Pepper, a senior program manager who worked on the electric work truck design, had applied for a Clarke award 10 times in the past but had never won. Until now. He said the perception is changing at the utility that being environmental can mean more than protecting wildlife. His team chose to donate their prize to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program.
“This project has a huge impact on our carbon footprint for PG&E and how we’re perceived by our customers and shareholders,” Pepper said. “With trucks, our fuel is spent sitting still idling. All those emissions get eliminated by electrifying the system.”
The Clarke Awards are named after Richard A. Clarke, PG&E’s chairman and CEO from 1986 to 1995, who led the company’s efforts to build its reputation as an environmental leader.
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.