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.

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