Sunday, December 6, 2009

Suggestions for "Next Steps"

On Dec 5, 2009, at 10:26 AM, Paul Feiner wrote:

I am wondering if the community would be interested in meeting in the near future (if holiday schedules make December inconvenient we can meet in January). We should come up with one or two manageable initiatives that we can lobby the PSC to mandate.

We can meet at Greenburgh Town Hall. Among suggestions:

1) Require notification to local governments re: extent of tree cutting before tree cutting takes place…

2) Require Con Ed (other other utility companies that clear cut trees) to replant replacements. (we just received trees from Con Ed which we planted on Sprain Road yesterday---not enough, but better than nothing. These trees were given to us to compensate the community for some of the trees cut 3 years ago). The PSC should come up with a formula for replacements.

3) Requirement of some noise abatement if trees acted as a noise barrier between residential neighborhoods and busy parkways/highways.

4) Requirement that Con Ed submit proof that trees being cut can impact wires before trees are cut.

These are just a few ideas. My suggestion: We meet during the week of January 11th. I’m available on that Monday or Tuesday evening. Any thoughts?

Greenburgh Town Supervisor

To which I have just replied:

I know that GNC (Greenville Nature Center) is establishing a working group to focus on several elements related to the Con Ed and PSC question. This forum would be open to others outside of the Town and villages, including anywhere in the county or in nearby counties such as Rockland.

Some of the initial goals discussed would be to generate the following:

  • PSC Petition -> review / appeal 2005 Transmission Line Guidelines. Require a science-based determination of guidelines.

  • Resolution for municipal-level adoption -> calling for state investigation of PSC SEQR process, Con Ed implementation, etc.

  • Sample Tree Code Module -> control over ROW activities by Con Ed or other utilities (based upon Greenburgh 260A.)

These are in some ways broader and in some ways more specific than your suggestions, but do not in any way exclude yours, rather build from them as a base. For example, the timely notification requirement is very important. Honest, timely disclosure to both municipal and private stakeholders. Allowing for on-site review of actual in-field decision criteria relating to clearance guidelines. Clear marking of affected trees as to prune vs. removal.

But, to my mind, the core issue is the legality of the original SEQR process itself that PSC & Con Ed have used to give a carte blanche to their actions.

Requiring replacements for removed trees is good. Full public and scientific review of any such guidelines would be necessary - and would require a case-by-case review and approval for relandscaping. Tree valuation must be based upon age, location, species, health (condition) and more. The entire ecosystem collapses when clear cutting such as what has occurred along the transmission lines is undertaken. Simply replanting a few young trees does not resolve these impacts ranging from stormwater issues to noise and privacy issues to habitat losses.

Not to mention property value impacts. What sort of restitution should be required to be given to affected property owners?

The notion that a single blanket SEQR could or should encompass all transmission line clearings across the state (over 190,000 acres affected) is a central fallacy. This must be stopped! SEQRs for each unique line segment should be the requirement. And full public review. At this point, the lack of environmental stewardship demonstrated by Con Ed should trump any issue of inconvenience or delay in process.

Item #3 - Street noise abatement - is a delicate area. If, in the act of fixing noise issues the solution is to erect barrier walls - then you will have just implemented a potentially egregious ecological error - blocking (or isolating) migratory routes, hunting areas and habit for animals, amphibians and so forth. This in itself could cause as much long term damage as simply removal of trees.

Item #4 is very important - the site surveys of tree impacts and resulting clearance needs must be justified. In distribution line clearing, this concurrence can fall with the municipality and the private home owner locally. But for transmission line ROW, who exactly is the oversight party that should review such analysis? What sort of monitoring or inspection process exists by which to hold Con Ed (or the other state transmission utilities) to any such enhanced requirements?

There is obviously much more here to discuss, but I think we should be in good shape by early January to have an agreed list of goals / action items - for a larger meeting. I will ask Anne Jaffe to be sure that you are kept in the loop with GNC related activities, as well.

One item I thought I should mention is that GNC is considering a second Tree Roundtable for January. The subject of this roundtable would be management of street trees - especially in terms of dealing with the distribution line clearing cycles.

Local residents and municipalities need to understand what actions are available to them by which the impact of the 3 year Con Ed cycle can be mitigated:

-> Street Tree Survey - mapping type, age, health of street trees, planting zones, wire impact areas, etc.
-> Street Tree Replanting ("right tree in the right place") and yearly maintenance pruning plans.
-> Education of private home owners about planting near wire zones and proper pruning maintenance.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Until these matters are resolved, the affected municipalities should take action to obtain stop work orders against Con Edison that have provision for emergency and imminent danger work only.

Many communties in Westchester and Rockland counties are affected. There should be a regional meeting for all the affected municipalities. It is the same story in Rockland county which has O&R Electric (Con Edison's subsidiary).

Furthermore, the affected municipalities should hire a qualified utility safety specialist who can review Con Edison's vegetation managment plans as well as instances of overly-aggressive tree cutting. That is what a number of communities did in NJ to address a similar situation there. The local environmental conservation committees really know nothing about national utility electrical codes, etc. For example, Con Edison will often reference line sag. That only occurs with certain very high kilo voltage lines. And, it is something that occurs in the vertical dimension, not the horizontal dimension.