Sunday, February 28, 2010

Changes Needed in Tree-Cutting Policies - LOHUD Editorial

Journal News Editorial 2/28/10:

It is time for the the state and Consolidated Edison to take a second look at the effect recent policies have had on the landscape, natural habitat and neighbors along hundreds of miles of high-voltage transmission lines that criss-cross the Lower Hudson Valley.

Since the fall, residents in communities from Yonkers to Yorktown have been up in arms over Consolidated Edison's aggressive clear-cutting of vegetation from the pathways beneath the transmission lines. In Greenburgh, residents who once had a woodland buffer between their homes and a busy roadway have lost their visual screen and their natural noise barrier. In Pleasantville, the utility cut down century-old trees near a park.


Click here for the rest of the Editorial.

Con Edison Service Restorations Continue

From MarketWatch Marketwire Saturday Feb 27th:

Evening Update: Con Edison Service Restorations Continue

NEW YORK, NY, Feb 27, 2010 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Con Edison crews continue responding to outages caused by the snowstorm, with most outages concentrated in Westchester County. The crews will be working through the weekend to restore service to customers. The company expects to restore service to the majority of customers throughout the weekend with restoration efforts to address scattered outages extending into Tuesday evening.

While extensive tree damage is still impeding restoration efforts, the company is continuing to address the more than 1,000 reports of downed wires and has made substantial progress in restoring service.

Of the 50,200 customers with service interrupted by the storm in Westchester, approximately 35,200 customers have been restored. Less than 15,000 remain without power as of 9 p.m. this evening. Con Edison estimated that more than 1,350 of these outages involve downed power lines serving only one customer.

Over 300 utility repair crews, including more than 180 crews from utilities as far away as Ohio, are working on the restoration efforts in Westchester County.

The areas remaining with significant outages are Cortlandt, Croton, Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, North Castle, Pleasantville, Briarcliff Manor/Ossining, and Yorktown. The company has added additional customer service representatives to its call centers to answer customers' questions.

Stay away from downed and dangling wires. Treat all wires down as if they are live and dangerous. Be careful power lines may be hidden under snow, tree branches or other debris. Report any downed power lines to 1-800-75-CONED or to 911.

Customers are also urged to call Con Edison immediately to report any outages at 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633). Customers can also report power interruptions or service problems, as well as view service restoration information online at www.conEd.com, and on their cell phones and PDAs. When reporting an outage, customers should have their Con Edison account number available, if possible, and report whether their neighbors also have lost power.

When severe outages occur, the primary focus is on public safety. Crews are dispatched to address wires down to open blocked roads. Once the public safety issues have been addressed, all crews will be assigned to restoring customers to service as efficiently as possible.

Con Edison is in contact with local and municipal officials, as well as the appropriate Office of Emergency Services to keep them apprised of all restoration efforts.

Con Edison customer service vans will be set up at two locations in Greenburgh and Ossining today. Dry ice will also be made available tomorrow from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The customer van and dry ice distribution locations are:

-- Greenburgh Town Hall, 177 Hillside Avenue, Town of Greenburgh
-- Arcadian Shopping Center, South Highland Avenue, Ossining

Customer service representatives will be available to answer any concerns or questions. For residents picking up dry ice, instructions for safe handling and disposal are printed on the bag containing the ice. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and should be used only in well-ventilated areas. Keep children and pets safely away.

For more storm tips, go to www.ConEd.com.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Request for Comments/Input on Proposed Electric Transmission Line Vegetation Management Resolution; WCBOL

from email alert circulated today (Friday Feb 26th):

Hello,

On Monday, Mar. 1, at 1 pm, the Board of Legislators Environment Committee will continue its review of a resolution calling for a moratorium on Con Edison's tree cutting program and a revision of New York Public Service Commission requirements.

Time may not permit opportunity for all interested persons to comment at Monday's meeting. As well, many persons that wanted to comment at the last meeting may not be able to attend on this coming Monday.

Therefore, please feel free to submit any input or comments to me at cmc1@westchestergov.com . I will collect any comments I receive and provide it to committee members for the Monday meeting. Feel free to forward this to other interested persons.

In addition, if you would like to receive an e-mail with an electronic copy of the documents circulated at the last meeting, please feel free to e-mail me. Several people already indicated to me that they wanted this info., and I will e-mail these documents. All together, the attachments are about 5 MB in size.

Feel free to contact me with questions, etc. at cmc1@westchestergov.com .

Chris Crane

_______________________________________
Christopher M. Crane
Counsel, Committee on Environment & Energy
Westchester County Board of Legislators
148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor
White Plains, New York 10601
T: (914) 995-2104
F: (914) 995-3884
E: cmc1@westchestergov.com
http://www.westchesterlegislators.com

Follow-up Westchester BOL committee meeting concerning Moratorium resolution this Monday!


Westchester County Board of Legislators

COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT

Monday, March 1, 2010, 1:00 pm

AGENDA

Items for Discussion:

Ø     Electric Transmission Line Vegetation Management
The committees will continue review of legislation calling for a moratorium on Con Edison’s tree cutting program and a revision of New York’s Public Service Commission requirements.
Ø     Approval of Minutes
Ø     Any other business before the Committee
_________________________

Location:      Michaelian Office Building
                        148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor
                        White Plains, NY  10601

Contact:         Christopher Crane
                        T: (914) 995-2104
                        E: cmc1@westchestergov.com

[If you do not wish to receive future Environment or Energy Committee announcements, please e-mail Christopher Crane]

# # #

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bullet Lists - Talking Points

Here are the two "Top 5" Action lists edited down to short bullet items, easy to remember sound bites...

Top 5 Fixes for Transmission Line Clearing Projects
  • Restitution or mitigation for affected homeowners and municipalities.
  • Public review and update of original PSC 2004 SEQR filing.
  • Modernization of Vegetative Management guidelines for ROW.
  • Advanced notification by utilities including written description.
  • Improved supervision and QA of line clearing contractors.

Top 5 Fixes for Distribution Line Clearing Projects
  • Communication: improved notification of public & private property owners.
  • Restoration & restitution: removal, re-plant, remuneration.
  • Improved supervision & training of crews including incident resolution process.
  • Encouragement for municipal tree pruning and maintenance programs.
  • Public education: “Right tree in the right place.”

Recent Media Coverage of BOL Committee Meeting



The Feb. 23rd issue of Journal News had this coverage:

County Vows to Revisit Tree-cutting Flap
Greg Clary - gclary@lohud.com


A man works near Jackson Avenue in November.
Consolidated Edison has cut trees along its power lines.
(File photo by Ernie Garcia/The Journal News)


WHITE PLAINS — Residents packed a committee meeting of the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Monday afternoon, looking for help in shutting down Consolidated Edison's buzzsaws.

After an hour and 20 minutes, all they got was a promise that there would be another meeting on the tree-cutting controversy soon.

Mitch Perl, a Thornwood resident who came to voice his anger about trees taken down near his property, wondered why there was only an hour meeting alloted to something that is so clearly upsetting residents.

"I think the cutting needs to be stopped today," he said.

Democratic county lawmakers Peter Harkham and Martin Rogowsky, leading a joint meeting of the board's Energy and Environmental committees, apologized to the 50 or so people who attended the 3 p.m. meeting, saying they had to adjourn because a separate 4 p.m. meeting was scheduled in the same room.

Complaints against Con Edison's three-year tree-cutting program center on a wide-swath cutting style that takes down smaller trees and bushes to forestall other problems.

Also cited were contractors with little supervision and inadequate communication with homeowners.

Seeking county action, residents presented a resolution calling for a moratorium on the cutting, and petitioning the Public Service Commission to review the 5-year-old cutting regulations it imposes on utilities statewide.

Con Edison officials attending Monday's meeting spoke about the need to maintain the electrical grid and how trees can interrupt power when allowed to grow too large near transmission lines.
Public Service Commission officials pointed out to agitated crowds in Greenburgh and Pleasantville last month that the 2003 blackout of the entire Northeast originated with two tree contacts on a local transmission system in Ohio.

Residents understood the need to protect the lines and the power that serves their homes but they said they wanted more oversight of the cutting crews and a more reasoned cutting strategy.
They also wanted replanting and other remediation.

"We want restoration, replanting," said Dennis Adinolfi, who lives on Remsen Road and saw his backyard among the photos shown to lawmakers on a projector. "It looks like an F-15 came and dropped napalm. I have flooding in my backyard that wasn't there before the trees were cut."

County lawmakers say they will take the issue up again as quickly as they can, but residents say nothing will change as long as there is no penalty for a utility clear-cutting trees along its transmission lines.

Legislator Thomas Abinanti, D-Greenburgh, was the least patient of his colleagues.

"I'm extremely disappointed with Con Edison," Abinanti said, addressing utility officials. "Why don't you you just pour concrete and get it over with. ... I'm fed up."

Abinanti said the utility could find other ways, regardless of Public Service Commission regulations, to work with municipal officials and homeowners to come up with a balance between protecting electricity supply and the environment.

"This is a green county," he said. "You're destroying the environment here."



This week's Examiner (2/23) has an extensive article reporting the BOL committee meeting, as well as an editorial (see page 3 of pdf) in support of the LORAX Moratorium resolution.

The North County News (2/24) also has an article reporting the BOL committee meeting. However, a version is not yet posted online.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Excerpts from NYS Public Service Commission Order In Case 04-E-0822 Issued & Effective June 20, 2005

All undesirable vegetation within a ROW should be tracked and removed in accordance with the degree of threat it poses to the transmission facilities.
P. 13

No tree having the characteristics of what has been called a "danger tree" should ever be permitted to remain on a ROW, including in buffer areas. Side trees, trees outside the ROW (that due to their condition or location) pose a particular danger to the transmission facility, are what the utilities should designate and track as "danger trees". P. 13

For consistency sake, the Commission will define a "danger tree" as any tree rooted outside of a ROW that due to its proximity and physical condition (i.e., mortality, lean, decay, cavities, cracks, weak branching, root lifting, or other instability), poses a particular danger to a conductor or other key component of a transmission facility. P. 13

They (TOs) must continue to evolve and develop effective danger tree programs that incorporate the appropriate balance between attempting to attain zero tree-caused outages and the corresponding cost, public acceptance, and environmental impact of these programs. P. 13.

Each utility has established wire security zones around conductors into which vegetation should never enter, and wider priority zones that, when vegetation enters, trigger immediate or future clearing activities to ensure that the vegetation is not allowed to continue to grow into the wire security zone. …As a general rule, for clarification, any undesirable vegetation rooted within the ROW that in any way encroaches into a priority zone is to be completely removed to the floor or ground-level of the ROW. … As a general rule, for clarification, any undesirable vegetation rooted within the ROW that in any way encroaches into a priority zone is to be completely removed to the floor or ground-level of the ROW. Mere trimming of such undesirable vegetation rooted within the ROW so that it no longer encroaches into a priority zone is not an acceptable or cost-effective practice. Any undesirable vegetation rooted outside of the ROW that in any way encroaches into a priority zone is to be trimmed to the edge of the ROW consistent with industry standards in effect at the time of trimming. Centerline easements, without definite ROW edges, should be interpreted and applied by utilities in a manner that any undesirable vegetation that in any way encroaches into a priority zone is removed completely to the floor. Application of these rules will provide a natural and practical limit on clearing within the ROW, such that they will not result in any unnecessary clearing. P. 20-21

Each utility has established priority zones that, when vegetation enters, trigger immediate or future clearing activities to ensure that the vegetation is not allowed to continue to grow into more restrictive wire security zones. … remove undesirable vegetation that in any way encroaches into a utility-established priority zone. P. 24

Vegetative buffers on the ROW are the exception to the general rule …. Buffers are maintained at high use road crossings and other areas of high visual sensitivity, primarily for visual amelioration or unique environment preservation. In many cases they were established as mitigation measures during the construction of new lines, often as a condition of approval, or over time based on the concerns of adjacent landowners. In some cases, the buffers consist of undesirable tree species that must be constantly trimmed. Buffers of tall growing trees are a known area where vegetation-caused outages can occur …. The Commission's goal is for the utilities to inventory the buffer areas, evaluate whether they are still needed, assess whether it is feasible for any tall growing, incompatible vegetation found in them to be removed and replaced with naturally occurring compatible species or newly formed vegetated berms, and to establish a schedule to complete the conversion or elimination work within the next vegetation management cycle. P. 26


Prepared by County/BOL Staff.

Notes from This Week's Greenburgh Town Council Work Session

On Tuesday, Feb 23, 9:30AM the Greenburgh Town Council meet in a work session. The LORAX Moratorium resolution was on the agenda. Mark Gilliland was present to provide an overview and answer questions.

There was interest in seeing the 2008 Rockland County resolution passed in regards to O&R clear cutting activities. (MG supplied a copy to the Board as a follow-up after the meeting.)

One concern was that even during the moratorium, Con Ed might try to continue to remove trees under the "danger tree" exception. The resolution could be updated to ensure that the Town Forester was notified about and approved "danger tree" removals during the moratorium.

Other issues raised included the lack of mitigation for current activities, property value impacts and the concern for the potentially rapid spread of invasives and other such undesirable environmental impacts. Excessive use of herbicides for ongoing ROW management was also discussed.

Paul Feiner moved that the Resolution be placed on the March 10th Town Council session for public comment and council vote.

Notes from This Week's Westchester BOL Joint Committee Meeting

Westchester BOL Environment & Energy committee meeting notes - 02/22/10 - mg -

Well over 50 members of the public and a few local press attended this meeting, acking the conference room to well beyond capacity - overflowing into the hallway.

Con Ed spoke first. They had an entourage of 6 or 7 people at the meeting, but only three came up to the committee table to present - Milo Blaire (VP Elec. Transmission Systems), George Czernniewski (Con Ed Section Manager, Transmission Lines) and Mike Amato (Field Manager).

There were no big revelations by Con Ed. The basic message is they are doing what they do based upon PSC and federal requirements - so as to avoid heavy fines for non-compliance incidents. They do not mitigate or do replant restoration. And they are doing clear cut because it is cost effective. (Etc.)

They did say they are starting a program of improved communication and notification of municipalities and property owners - with an enhanced description of the scope of work printed on the notification cards, for example. Also, an update to info on the web site describing the working guidelines. They will plan to meet with local officials and will "walk the line" with them ahead of time.

A question was asked by the committee about how they will ensure that their contractors understand the actual scope of agreed work, as well as questioning if they are even properly trained or not.

Chris Crane (Committee co-ordinator) and Stewart Glass (Executive Director, Public Utility Service Agency) then presented background materials about the clear cutting - including a set of effective slides showing end results as well as locations of downed trees vis-a-vis distant transmission towers.

Anne Jaffe and Mark Gilliland presented the LORAX resolution in greater detail and explained the 2 basic goals of 1) immediate moratorium on current ROW work and 2) revisitation of PSC regulations through a process including scientific & public input.

John Tomlin from Andrea Stewart-Cousins office also spoke and described her recently introduced resolution in the state senate (S6825 - which calls for utilities to notify 60 days in advance and to hold a public meeting 30 days before clearing activities commence). This made Tom Abinati assert that the ASC resolution provided no solution at all... Imagine - if during a perscribed public meeting with Con Ed, the public or municipality did not agree to what Con Ed proposed. Then what was the recourse? Con Ed could simply say "tough" and go and do what they wanted to anyway. They had, after all, held a public meeting. Thus, the letter of the proposed law would be fulfilled. Tom's point was that there is no teeth to the resolution nor is there a 3rd party or means by which to arbitrate the hypothetical difference in opinions between Con Ed and public.

My own thoughts (after the fact of the meeting) on this review/arbitration process are posted in the previous blog entry (immediately below).

Other speakers included the Supervisor Susan Siegal of Yorktown and the Deputy Mayor Mindy Berard of Pleasantville. Also a professor from Pace Environmental Law (Jamie Van Nostrand). Supervisor Siegal indicated she was in favor of enhanced vegetation management standards, advanced public notification & meetings, more & better oversight of work crews, marking of trees to be removed, proper mitigation and cleanup, and addressing security issues such as ATV access to cleared ROWs.

The committee chairs indicated they would have another meeting very soon to review the actual CONTENT of the resolution in detail. They suggested they would also make time for public input - but no date was specified.

Tom Abinati complained strongly about how the legislature had danced around this matter, considering various pieces of legislation for a number of years - each time deferring to Con Ed when they suggested they "got it" and would change their ways. Tom said he was done waiting for Con Ed and was unsatisfied with what they had done over the years. He was ready to vote and pass the moratorium legislation NOW.

Besides Tom, 3 or 4 BOL members are also co-sponsors of this resolution.

UPDATED FEEDBACK on Draft Legislation Regarding Utility Line Clearing Public Notification

Here is the legislation recently introduced into the State Senate by Senator Stewart-Cousins regarding Transmission Line ROW clearing. This bill effectively requires advanced notification and requires a public town/village meeting to allow discussion of the work project with community feedback.

There are many issues with this concept in that it does not go nearly far enough to begin to solve any of the current problems and issues. Here are some of these issues (updated base upon discussions resulting from this week's Westchester County BOL Energy & Environment committees joint meeting on Monday):

1) The bill should more clearly state what the nature of the 60 day notification consists of. This should be advanced notification to each property owner (private or municipal) by mailing or door cards which clearly spell out the scope and nature of the work. The card notification should also have a contact phone or email by which to set up an on-site consultation.

2) A written record of notification should be maintained indicating that the property owner has concurred with the plan. No work by utility or its contractor should occur without this proof.

3) Besides advanced notification, there should be a requirement to clearly survey & mark the boundaries of the ROW before any work commences.

4) All trees to be removed should also be clearly marked.

5) No enforcement mechanism is defined to ensure such advanced notice to property owners actually occurs. (Current regulations and vegetative management plans require notification now, but the results are spotty at best.) Who holds oversight for this? What can be done to ensure proper oversight occurs?

6) What if at the community meeting (or the on-site one-on-one meetings) folks don't agree to the work being proposed by the utility? There is no process for mediation or mitigation called out. (Why wouldn't the utilities position simply remain: "PSC is making us do this"??)

Public review of environmental concerns relating to planned actions traditionally falls into the category of a SEQR Environmental Impact Statement - which is supposed to outline options by which to minimize and mitigate any undesirable environmental impacts. However, Con Ed (and the other Transmission Utilities) are not required to produce an EIS for transmission line work as their actions fall under a "master" SEQR finding by the Public Service Commission from 2004.

Thus, there is currently no mechanism by which public input can be heard at a local level, nor can such input serve to induce a modification of utility plans or of the PSC- approved vegetative management policy.

The solution is not simply to require Con Ed (or other utilities) to hold public meetings for review of planned actions, but also should be to require that the environmental and property value impacts of such proposed work be fully outlined and effective restoration / remediation / mitigation measures be agreed upon by affected parties. (Yes, this is effectively a SEQR-like solution, but one in which the utilities are not given a "free pass" by the PSC. So why not just require a full SEQR to be undertaken in this situation?? Perhaps the local municipality could be assigned as the "lead agency" for review.)

A further necessary extension of this would be the need to define a (public) arbitration process by which acceptable mitigation can be reached - as it is certain that the utilities will want to do less than the affected property owners desire to have done... (But which agency would adjudicate such arbitration? The PSC? No, they have "failed" in their oversight already!) For the SEQR process now, the last resort now is filing an Article 78 action. This seems too extreme of a step to have to make simply to ensure the utility does not negatively impact your property or local environment. It puts the legal burden on the homeowner or the municipality - which is not where it should be, but rather on the utility!

7) Advanced notification does not begin to address the full range of issues concerning property value or environmental impacts of the line clearing work. This can only occur if the original (deceptive & illegal "short form"?) PSC SEQR from 2004  is re-opened and a full public review process instigated. Out of this process, the ROW clear cut guidelines would need to be modified to reflect current scientific and community concerns.

8) Mitigation requirements for impacts of recent clear-cut activities on homeowners and municipalities are not addressed, either.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Trees Pay Us Back!

Info from a US Forest Service brochure (link to pdf):

Landscape trees provide benefits that far exceed the costs of planting and care over their lifetime. Environmental and esthetic benefits, such as energy savings, stormwater
runoff reduction, cleaner air, and higher property values, are an average of three times greater than tree care costs. The greatest benefits for private trees are energy savings and higher property values.


Healthy trees mean ...

… healthy people. 
One hundred trees remove 
53 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
430 pounds of other air pollutants per year.

… healthy communities. 
Tree-filled neighborhoods 
lower levels of domestic violence. 
are safer and more sociable.

… healthy environment.
One hundred mature trees catch about 139,000 gallons of rainwater per year.

… homeowner savings.
Strategically placed trees save up to 56% on annual air-conditioning costs.
Evergreens that block winter winds can save 3% on heating.

… better business. 
In tree-lined commercial districts, shoppers report
more frequent shopping.
longer shopping trips.
willingness to pay more for parking.
willingness to spend 12% more for goods.

… higher property values. 
Each large front yard tree adds 1% to the house sales price.
Large specimen trees can add 10% to property value 


One healthy street tree 20 years old:
Annual Benefits
$96
Annual Costs
$36
Annual net benefit
$60

One hundred healthy trees over 40 years:
Yard trees
    Public trees
Benefits
$364,000
     $380,000
Costs
  $92,000
     $148,000
40-year net benefit
$272,000
     $232,000

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Draft Legislation Regarding Utility Line Clearing Public Notification

Here is the legislation recently introduced into the State Senate by Senator Stewart-Cousins regarding Transmission Line ROW clearing. This bill effectively requires advanced notification and requires a public town/village meeting to allow discussion of the work project with community feedback.

However, there are several apparent issues / shortfalls as follows:

- the bill should more clearly state what the nature of the 60 day notification consists of. This should be advanced notification to each property owner (private or municipal) by mailing or door cards which clearly spell out the scope and nature of the work. The card notification should also have a contact phone or email by which to set up an on-site consultation.

- a written record of notification must be maintained indicating that the property owner has concurred with the plan. No work by utility or its contractor should occur without this proof.

- no enforcement mechanism is defined to ensure such advanced notice to property owners actually occurs. (Current regulations and vegetative management plans require notification now, but the results are spotty at best. Who holds oversight?)

- what if at the community meeting (or the one-on-one meetings) folks don't agree to the work being proposed by the utility? There is no process for mediation or mitigation called out. (Why wouldn't the utilities position simply remain: "PSC is making us do this"??)

- advanced notification does not begin to address property value or environmental impacts of the line clearing work. This can only occur if the original (deceptive & illegal?) PSC SEQRA from 2005 is re-opened and a full public review process instigated.

- mitigation for impacts of recent clear-cut activities on homeowners and municipalities is not addressed.

Members of the GEF LORAX working group will be meeting with the Senator and her staff to discuss these issues and propose possible solutions.

Westchester BOL committee meeting concerning Moratorium resolution this Monday!


*** COMMITTEE MEETING NOTICE  ***


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 16, 2010
Contact:   Christopher M. Crane ChrisC@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2104 (office)



WESTCHESTER LAWMAKERS CONSIDER CALL FOR MORATORIUM ON CON ED TREE CUTTING PROGRAM


What:             The Westchester County Board of Legislators Committees on Environment and Energy will have a joint meeting discussing Consolidated Edison’s recent tree cutting along electric transmission line corridors.  Both committees will, also, address legislation calling for a moratorium on Con Edison’s tree cutting program and a revision of the State’s Public Service Commission requirements

Who:              Energy and Environment Committee Members
                        Representatives from Con Edison
              
When:            Monday, February 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Where:          Westchester County Board of Legislators Committee Room
148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor
White PlainsNY

Why:              Recent tree cutting and clearing along electric transmission line corridors has raised many questions and concerns among homeowners and municipalities that border these lines.  Con Edison operates and manages the transmission lines, which span from Yonkers toYorktown.


# # #


Modified Border Zone - Tiered Vegetation Management



Here is a diagram from the Sierra Club which illustrates how a tiered approach to vegetation removal in the border zones of the transmission line ROW could be achieved. This shows exclusion zones (clearance zones) based upon wire sag and wind sway and is based upon federal clearance guidelines for 200kv and 500kv lines.

Con Edison Transmission Line Tree Trimming Schedule



Diagram from FAC-003-2 technical white paper

January – June 2010

January
New Castle

February
New Castle
Yorktown

March
Yorktown

April
Yorktown
Carmel
Putnam Valley

May
Carmel
Putnam Valley
Kent

June
Putnam Valley
Kent
East Fishkill

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yonkers Councilwoman McDow wants Public Service Commission to rein in Con Ed

From the Politics on the Hudson LOHUD blog - FEBRUARY 12:

Yonkers Councilwoman Patricia McDow, D-1st District, wants the Yonkers City Council to adopt a resolution asking the Public Service Commission to put greater restrictions on Con Edison when it comes to tree cutting, street digging and repaving. Here is her statement released yesterday.

Major projects such as Consolidated Edison’s M-29 power line, causing serious traffic issues; road disruption and recent numerous tree cuttings, prompted Yonkers Majority Leader Patricia D. McDow (D), Council Member for the First District to introduce legislation requesting that the Public Service Commission (PSC) review their relevant rules and regulations and consider amending them to be more objective towards the opinions of the community. The purpose of this legislation is to lessen the burden on local residents directly affected by actions taken by regulated public utility companies before important projects are initiated. In addition, the councilwoman is also respectfully requesting that the New York State Legislature and Governor pass legislation mandating the PSC to allow for better community input.

Following the most recent Real Estate Committee Meeting, the committee members had agreed that a council support resolution should be introduced to address the needs of the community. The Yonkers City Council Members have requested that the Yonkers City Clerks Office send a copy of this certified resolution to the municipalities throughout New York State that may also share the same concerns.

Majority Leader McDow states, “I believe that community and local concerns are not adequately being addressed through the current rules and regulations of the commission as it stands.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yonkers Passes Transmission Line Clear Cut Moratorium

The city council unanimously passed the LORAX's Transmission Line Clear Cutting moratorium.


Links to the draft (generic) moratorium legislation can be found posted here on the LORAX working group web site.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

O&R Vegetative Management Plan

Since we have only received an extensively redacted vegetation management plan from Con Ed in response to repeated FIOL requests, the next best thing available for study is the un-redacted plan of it's subsidiary Orange & Rockland.

Here is the press release that came out from O&R when the management plans were updated and released. It clear states that O&R had gone over board on it's clear cutting the ROW under 134kv (and lower voltage) lines in their region.

This recent article from the Journal News shows that the O&R vegetative management plan still has a lot of issues. Note at the end that the town is left with the task of replanting trees along the park trail. No restitution by the utility company.

For a laugh, here is the redacted Con Ed plan.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lobby Westchester Board of Legislators to Support Clear-Cut Moratorium Resolution

The GEF Lorax working group's transmission line clear cutting moratorium resolution was submitted to the Environment Committee and the Energy Committee committee chairs, and the next likely step would be a committee meeting to review the resolution and tree cutting generally. However, such a meeting has not yet been scheduled.

If people would like to contact their legislators in support of this resolution, they can e-mail their legislators from the WCBOL website. Legislators do review these e-mails!

Interested persons should e-mail their own legislator. If someone does not know who their legislator is, they can review it online. (Refer to the district numbers (1-17) mapped using brick red squares.]

Download a copy of the proposed resolution.

Sierra Club: Effects of Clear Cutting Includes up to 30% Property Value Loss

Email received by a concerned reader & forwarded to me today:

From: Sierra Lower Hudson Group

Subject: Sierra Club LHG list: attention- urgent situation re: Con
Edison.

As a Sierra Club member and resident and taxpayer of Westchester County, we need your attention and response to the urgent situation re: Con Edison.

For the past several months Con Edison has been cutting down hundreds of mature hardwood trees along the Sprain River Parkway and other thoroughfares. This devastation is causing mudslides, erosion, and the loss of entire ecosystems of plant and animal life. Residents living nearby have lost home and property value of up top 30% because of the resulting traffic noise, headlights, and the loss of shade, cleaner air and the aesthetic value that standing hardwood trees brings everywhere. Con Edison plans to continue this "maintenance" without any regulations mandated by the State of New York for environmental impact.

State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, (D-35th District) is gathering information from the public on any experiences or knowledge you might have on tree cutting sites happening now or in the past, in particular, any potential property damage you might incur as a result of Con Edison's activity. Con Edison continues cutting trees down along highways and aggressively pruning trees along neighborhood streets.

Please contact Senator Cousins at her District office (914)423-4031 or scousins@senate.state.ny.us to help remedy this destructive practice by Con Edison.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Referral Needed: Realtor with the Impact Numbers

I'm looking to talk to someone in the real-estate community who would have an informed sense of how the Con Ed clear-cutting has affected the value of properties near the transmission lines. Can anyone suggest a couple of names for me to contact?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Westchester Residents Lash Out At Con Ed Tree Trim - CH 2 CBS Local News


As Much As They Like Their Power, People Also Love Their Trees; Utility Says Often The Latter Has To Be Sacrificed

This page has the transcript and a video player with the 2 minute segment. It's a lot of Con Ed PR without any discussion of the real environmental issues. Con Ed spokeswoman blames the "regulators." Calls the clear cutting "trimming."

from the transcript:

Con Ed said the trees have to come down to keep the power on, so residents don't have to burn firewood for light and heat when the electricity goes out.

"We understand their concerns but they also have to understand that no one likes to lose power, and this is a real reliability issue when we are doing this trimming," Con Ed spokesperson Sandy Miller said.

Con Ed said regulators have encouraged aggressive tree cutting since 2003, when trees on transmission lines in Ohio caused that major blackout.

Con Ed's Irresponsible Actions - Send Your Complaint Now!

As a community of affected & concerned residents, we need to continue to speak-up to our elected officials! At the bottom of this blog posting are some suggested politicians to contact with links to their online contact information.

Here is an example of an effective complaint by residents of Scarsdale, quoted from a recent email to Paul Feiner's office:

Dear Mr.Feiner,

I am writing to you along with our State Senator Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Spano and Brodsky. I had the pleasure of meeting our town forester who explained to me that the right of way that Con Ed exists on is state owned. He also mentioned that the Con Ed staff took him on a 'drive around', essentially telling him nothing of their actual plan to clear cut a beautiful old growth woods with no regard for its environmental impact or the resulting degradation of the real estate values of the contiguous properties.

Is their no recourse for this unconscionable behavior?

We feel that Con Edison should be held accountable and be required to make a serious and overseen remediation of this awful action that they undertook essentially 'in the dark of night' - not truthfully informing the towns or the state or the PSC commission.

Mr Feiner, as Greenburgh has spent so much effort to keep Greenburgh green, please expend whatever power of influence that you have towards some kind of remediation of the damage to our town.

Respectfully;

{ name withheld }, Scarsdale



To which Mr. Feiner replied:

I will share your letter with the PSC and our state representatives. I agree with you and will be meeting with Con Ed representatives again to discuss. I am working with a citizens group pressing for state legislation that will help preserve the green in our communties and avoid this kind of destruction. I am copying Mark Gilliland who is heading up that group. Would you be interested in getting involved in this initiative? PAUL FEINER



Thank you Paul! As a community, Westchester residents need to "keep the heat on" - especially at the state level - to ensure that Con Ed, the NYC DEP and the NYS PSC get the message that it can't be "business as usual" any longer: Environmental damage, property & quality of life impacts must take priority. Blindly "clear cutting" the transmission line ROW in the face of strongly negative public opinion is no longer viable.

We must continue to demand effective public oversight from our state legislators! Contact yours today - State Senator Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Spano and Assemblyman Brodsky. Come to think about it - Let's contact NYC Mayor Bloomberg or the NYC DEP Commissioner to let them know we disagree with how the DEP has been managing their land in our county. We demand better stewardship of these resources!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Transmission Line Clearing Moratorium Legislation

The Transmission Line sub-committee of the GEF LORAX working group has just released it's model legislation calling for an immediate moratorium upon Con Ed utility transmission line clearing activity. The moratorium resolution also calls for the PSC to re-open it's 2005 "enhanced line clearing" guidelines so that this policy can undergo much needed public review. The clear cut ("scorched earth") policy clearly does not conform to federal regulations, nor does it embody any awareness of the significant effects of such actions on either private property values or on the environment.

The model resolution is available as a .pdf file and a .doc file. A "generic" cover letter (.pdf file or .doc file) is also a must read for background information, including the supporting samples of media articles and photo documentation.

We intend that this moratorium resolution will be taken up by local municipalities and by the County Board of Legislators in the near future. Please feel free to bring this material to the attention of your village Mayor and Trustees (or your town's Supervisor and Council). It is important that as many Westchester municipal governments as possible pass this moratorium request to ensure sufficient political pressure can be applied on the PSC and on Con Ed as our local utility.

Con Ed's Cutting Style Angers Residents

from The Journal News front page article 02/02/10
by Greg Clary - gclary@lohud.com (Note: original article from LoHud.com)


A Consolidated Edison crew works in Pleasantville
that were cut down by Consolidated Edison. 
Resident James Holden said the area 
"looks like Sherman went through Atlanta."
 (Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)

PLEASANTVILLE — When James Holden saw what Consolidated Edison tree trimming looked like in his community, he thought of one image — the Civil War.

"It looks like Sherman went through Atlanta," Holden said of the 16 hemlocks lopped off on his Mount Pleasant property. "They just dropped the trees."

The utility right-of-way issue has become a new kind of uncivil battle, with one side swearing allegiance to reliable electric service and the other to a pruning philosophy that doesn't leave only stumps.

"The whole Northeast in the summer of 2003 was taken out by two tree contacts on a local transmission system," Jim Austin of the state Department of Public Service told agitated groups of citizens at recent meetings in the Hudson Valley. "Then in 2006 there was a major windstorm. Those two incidents caused elected officials to petition the (Public Service Commission) demanding better reliability. A consultant's report said the number one thing needed was more aggressive right-of-way management."

Austin's statements and other strong opinions from the state's utility regulator have pushed local residents to see the PSC as part of the problem, rather than the solution.

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, brought the PSC down for the residents' meetings and to tour some of the backyards, only to see local ire move from Con Edison and its tree-cutting subcontractors to state bureaucrats who locals think are too relaxed in their monitoring of quality-of-life issues.

"I'm really concerned that this program has run amok," said Steve Lopez, a Pleasantville village trustee and landscaping professional. "It's unfortunately leaving the residents with bad taste in their mouth about a government agency that should be serving everybody."

The complaints center on a wide-swath cutting style that takes down smaller trees and bushes to forestall future problems. Also cited are contractors with little supervision and no connection to community concerns who are given leeway within property lines to protect all the utilities' wires from falling under a tree's weight.

"The sensitivity to any kind of pruning that would leave a tree looking decent is just completely missing," Lopez said. "Con Ed insists they leave notices (to let residents know about upcoming cutting), but nothing."

Austin said his agency has had to find a middle ground that is practical and responsive.

"As you can imagine, it's a finely balanced balance that it's very easy to go one way or the other," Austin said. "If we're too lax, the lights go out and people complain, and more importantly, people's lives are threatened."

Stewart-Cousins said she wanted to see better communication between the state, the utilities and the residents.

"It seems to me that the PSC could be involved in a number of areas and make sure that there is at least a standard of what is sent out, what the expectation should be ... and how we can make sure that communities and residents aren't devastated," she said. "We want to make sure that (the cutting is) happening because of safety and not because it's great to cut down a tree so you don't have to come back and do it again."

She said "this is something happening all over the state."

There's no debate on that score from Marvin Baum, whose parents' Bardonia home in Rockland is on the list for cutting by Orange and Rockland Utilities, a Con Edison subsidiary.

"There are not enough outages to go for such cutting," Baum said. "They want to cut 12 Colorado blue spruce trees at my parents' house that are 20 to 25 feet high, little more than halfway to the wires. There shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all solution."

Baum said without proper cutting, which he agrees is important, and without some replacement plantings, communities end up facing erosion and flooding problems even if there is no thought to aesthetics."

"Clarkstown has spent millions on flood mitigation," he said. "Cutting trees down contributes to that problem."

Allan Drury, a spokesman for Con Edison, said the utility maintains hundreds of miles of transmission and distribution lines throughout the Hudson Valley and has to protect service.

"It's all about reliability," Drury said. "The lines during the summer can sage, so there's a need for extra space there." He said the company just finished a three-year cutting rotation, handling a third of its lines per year.

"We do meet with public officials to let them know we're working in their area," he said. "You can call 1-800-75- CONED if you need more information."

Kate Glazer, Stewart-Cousins' legislative director, said her boss is pushing legislation that would require utilities statewide to tighten the leash on its cutting crews, have higher standards and give notice so residents can be properly prepared.

"We're compiling all the residents' complaints and forwarding them to the PSC," Glazer said.

"And we're in the process of having legislation drafted directing the PSC to require public hearings before a utility goes into a community, to let residents know the size and scope of what is proposed, in much more detail," she said.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Con Ed Clear Cut Victims Speak Up - a must read!

from an email addressed to Con Ed from property owners along Sprain Road / Ridge Road area:

Dear Sirs:

I think it needs to be clear that we are, in no way, adjusting to our living conditions now that we are suffering from the effects of the obscene clear cutting behind our house. We hope that our lack of barraging you with emails and phone calls does not give you this impression. I am not getting used to the amount of noise, nor am I getting used to the other effects of it. The sound is like an unescapable set of nails on a blackboard to me. I cannot get a good night's sleep because of it, and am starting to experience physical effects of the stress and sleep depravation that this situation is causing me.

While you all have likely gone on with your lives as usual, I wake up every single morning and become angry and/or sad because the horrific traffic noise is the first thing I experience in my day. When I come home from a long day at work, I see the ugliness that you have left all around our town, and most abhorrently along our road, before I even get all the way home. It is infuriating and heart-breaking at the same time. This unhappy person is not the person I've been for the prior 41 years of my life. In addition to the anger and sadness, I suddenly feel unsafe in my own home. This is unacceptable. We have been violated by the actions of Con Edison. You had no right to affect our lives like this.

That being said, when we met exactly four weeks ago, we were told we would be hearing from you with a proposal about the trees. We have not heard anything other than an ambiguous e-mail. We have not seen a proposal. You should realize that this lack of communication makes us feel even more disrespected by you. We had been assuming that the delay had been due to things being "in the works." However, it has been four weeks since that initial meeting with you. We have no idea why we are not hearing anything more and can only assume the worse. If "the worse" is not the case, then please communicate that to us.

You have no idea how miserable you have made us in our own home. We cannot forget about this situation for one day that we are in our house. Have you forgotten?

We are also still awaiting the information that my husband FOILED a very long time ago.

Sincerely,

Kristina M. Cascone

Con Ed Saves another Tree?

from email today:

It just so happens that my recent Con Ed bill speaks of an incentive program (see excerpt below) where Con Ed will donate $1 to plant a tree when you sign up for electronic billing. This program is clearly self serving as Con Ed will save many times this amount in printing, postage, and administrative costs by not having to mail out monthly bills.

"As an added incentive, Con Edison will donate $1 for every customer who signs up for the e*bill program to a nonprofit tree planting initiative. For customers living in New York City, the company will donate to New York Restoration Project and the MillionTreesNYC campaign, and for customers living in Westchester County, donations will be sent to Friends of Westchester Parks, Inc.
Recent studies show that if all U.S. households viewed and paid their bills electronically, it would save 18.5 million trees - avoiding 2.2 billion tons of toxic air pollutants, 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste, and saving 15.8 billion gallons of precious water."

Read the full October press release from their website.

Yorktown is the next "Vegetative Management" Target

from an email today:

I received word today that Con Edison will begin its clear cutting in Yorktown this week. They are starting in the south side of town and expect to be in the densely populated north side of town at the end of the month. Our situation is a little different in that they have been clear cutting and we experienced the “scorched earth” in 2004---and then 2005 and 2007 when they really increased activity. They have targeted certain areas more so than others. There has been no real rationale as to how they have proceeded. Now, they are coming back for the last few border trees. As usual, our town board is divided on what to do. That has been the problem here right along. I have been told that it was in part due to Con Edison threatening a prior town supervior with the “D” class of emergency repair. In other words, if you don’t go along with us, we will delay repair in the event of outages. No elected official likes to receive complaints from the public about lack of electricity.

We need to try to get a moratorium in place ASAP.

Patricia Podolak