Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Citizens’ Group Goads Politicians To Act on Con Ed Tree-Cutting Policies

Latest Article from Hudson Independent:

by Barrett Seaman | MARCH 3, 2010

There are no known Truffula Trees in Westchester County, but there is a LORAX, Dr. Seuss’s furry defender of flora featured in his famed children’s book of the same name. The 2010 incarnation of the LORAX is a committee of citizens from across the county, formed late last year amidst the growing controversy over Con Edison’s “scorched earth” tree-pruning practices around the utility’s transmission and distribution lines.

Thanks to LORAX, politicians and legislative bodies from the village to the state level are now translating citizen outrage into action. On February 10, the Yonkers City Council unanimously passed a resolution based on the LORAX model, which proposes a moratorium on tree clearance while the State Public Service Commission re-examines its 2005 “enhanced clearing guidelines” and establishes a transparent process of reviewing the environmental and economic impact of site-specific cutting plans.

Less than two weeks later, in a packed committee hearing room in White Plains, the Environment and Energy Committees of the Westchester Board of Legislators held a joint hearing on a virtually identical proposal. Greenburgh’s Town Council has held hearings as well.

Meanwhile in Albany, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D/Yonkers) has submitted a bill (S-6825) that would require all New York State utilities to notify communities of their plans 60 days before cutting is to commence, in order to provide sufficient time for local review. At the February 22 Westchester legislative committee hearing, county Legislator Thomas Abinanti (D/Greenburgh) questioned whether S-6825 provided sufficient mechanism to enforce community wishes in cases where a utility insists its plans are warranted.

LORAX participants believe Con Edison and other utilities should have to file an Environmental Impact Statement, which is not required under current law. “Ideally,” said Mark Gilliland, Irvington’s tree commission chair and a LORAX leader, “the solution would be not only to require [utilities] to hold public meetings to review their plans but also to require an environmental and property value impact assessment of their proposed work, agreed upon by all affected parties.”

As Gilliland and his fellow Loraxians see it, an arbitrated agreement would have to come before the first chain saw starts up.

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