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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Today’s Journal News editorial (see link below) on transmission line tree removal in Westchester and Rockland is perfect, especially in light of the outages from the most recent storm. The GEF LORAX Working Group needs to follow-up ASAP!

Now is the perfect time for a “Community View” article in The Journal News, but more importantly… a public statement should be issued calling on our governmental leaders to demand that the PSC and Con Edison conduct a full, public environmental review on the causes of outages and a review of alternatives for improving service reliability, while also considering alternatives and ways to mitigate impacts on the environment, property owners and municipalities. This type of review cannot be done “overnight” and there are no “instant answers” to the problems. In the mean time, the proposed moratorium on transmission line tree cutting and call for environmental reviews before the Westchester Board of Legislators and other municipal bodies in Westchester are completely appropriate and in-line with the public interest.

Thus far, NY’s utilities and the PSC have worked in virtual “secrecy,” without public input (they seem to think they know everything better!), and the worst part is that their decisions on tree removal and trimming have been not been “data driven.” Monies that could have been better spent preventing outages experienced during the latest storm were instead spent removing trees that were too far from the transmission lines to have ever caused a problem. Judging by the widespread and prolonged outages in Westchester that were supposed to have been eliminated by Con Edison’s vegetation management programs, or at least significantly reduced, their policies haven’t worked.

The GEF LORAX Working Group needs to call on Con Edison (and O&R, which was also mentioned in the editorial) to make public their outage data for the past 10 years on transmission lines and for 5 years on distribution lines including the causes (trees, transformers, car accidents, etc.), along with a mapping of the outages and the number of customers impacted from each event. A mapping of the incident data, much like NYC’s efforts to map crime data that ultimately led to crime reduction, may help to find the most problematic areas that need improvement and lead to a better understanding about the underlying causes of outages in those areas. If Con Edison is willing to be a “good neighbor” to property owners and provide more substantially-sized plantings through a specific “tree planting” fund, property owners might be more inclined to agree to “staged” re-plantings outside of existing distribution line ROWs, which might prove substantially cheaper in the long run, rather than dealing with downed lines and customer outages.

If Con Edison were to have implemented an even more aggressive distribution line tree removal policy in Westchester, beyond what they’ve already done (and without a thorough environmental review), and if this had been a major flooding event (which this snow storm could still turn into, should we get heavy rains), Westchester’s residents and municipalities could have been facing devastating flood damage. This is why a full, public environmental review should have been done on the transmission lines in 2005, and why we should be calling for one now with a more “holistic,” big-picture approach that takes all factors into consideration for both transmission and distribution lines. As the latest storm demonstrated, we must also realize that no matter how much tree removal is done, we will not be able to eliminate all outages, especially in extreme weather situations.

The latest storm makes clear, that despite spending millions on tree removal and trimming by Con Edison, we still have a major problem. It’s great that The Journal News editorial board, for the first time ever, has taken a stand against the bad policies of Con Edison/O&R and the PSC.


Marvin Baum