Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Comments on PSC letter to Legislator Kaplowitz

Dear Ms. Brilling:

I live adjacent to Con Edison's Catskill Aqueduct ROW in Hartsdale. Directly on the other side of that formerly wooded ROW upon which a 100% reliable high voltage transmission line runs, is the Sprain Brook Parkway. I am currently in receipt of your letter to Legislator, Michael B. Kaplowitz, dated March 17, 2010 that was in response to his Mach 2, 2010 submittal of Resolution 26-2010 regarding a moratorium on clear cutting activities.

I find several of the statements in your letter deeply disturbing, as I'm sure anyone who lives adjacent to the transmission ROW would. In your letter, you refer to the Vantage Report (10/24/07), saying that "tree-trimming and vegetation are among the most important elements of any utility's reliability program..." From this statement, I can't imagine that you actually read the report to which you referred. I have read it, and tree-trimming is one of the last elements to which Vantage refers. And, what the report does say about tree-trimming primarily focuses on distribution line maintenance. Further, the recommendations that were made to Con Edison in Section A. Tree Trimming Practices and Performance of Chapter VII, RELIABILTY, as well as in the Summary section of the report were not at all what was actually carried out in reality along the transmission lines. This includes, "proactively contacting landowners prior to trimming; increased diret communication with community leaders; and new written material available on tree maintenance. What little of each of these performance indicators were done, were done with a great deal of dishonesty and in a misleading nature."

We received a post card from Con Edison about "maintenance." Since we found the overly aggressive 2007 cutting that was unnecessarily done (as the line was already 100% reliable) to have a severely negative impact on our lives (excessive highway noise, view, pollution, disruption of wildlife, cutting in wetland areas, and the list goes on and on), we contacted them to inquire what exactly was being done. We were repeatedly told, "We are cutting down undesirable species of trees that could, in their lifetime, come into contact with the lines." When ask about the topic of clear cutting, we were repeatedly told point blank, "We are NOT clear cutting," until the last tree was felled. Con Edison continues to stand by this ridiculous statement in defense of that "maintenance" when anybody with eyes can see that not one bit of vegetation was left where there trees stood.

In addition, a deep layer of wood chips was left behind that varies from inches to feet deep along this ROW. This is in direct violation of their agreement with the DEP. Since the clear-cutting (which supposedly didn't even happen), we were told that the chips had to be spread to less than inches. Since December, we look at these piles of chips and an unobstructed one-mile stretch of the Sprain Brook Parkway as our only view from our windows and yard. We used to look at nothing but trees, shrubs, and green. This is increasingly upsetting as all other areas are turning green. The vast expanse of wood chips remains beige and gray, except where they were blown in the water - the chips are now black and rotting in those areas.

The DEP guidelines for Con Ed's wood chipping clearly states, "Chips depth should not exceed 3" in depth. Chips must not be places within 50' of reservoirs, drainages, perennial or intermittent streams, or in the drainage ditch alongside the aqueduct..." Behind my property, this guideline was abhorrently violated. There are drainages and streams all along this area. The area is a wetland and on steep slope.

You reference to FERC is moot, as Con Edison is exempt from these guidelines. As you know, this is because of their historically reliable power transmission.

Your letter also states that, "Staff will also review Con Edison's ROW management plan to ensure that the appropriate attention remains focused on, among other things, aesthetics and environmental protection." Please be clear that the visual aesthetics are just the tip of the iceberg as to how our lives were affected by this massive destruction.

Eleven years ago, we bought this tiny little house (less than 1000 square feet) and made the outside area our oasis. We spent every bit of free time, our hard labor, and two small inheritances that I received on beautifying it and making it our "livingroom." We were surrounded by trees, we could not see the highway, and the sounds of the highway were so non-invasive that I didn't even notice them during the six visits I took to this property before purchasing it.

We now hear the highway in every room of the house with all of the windows closed. Even if we could get used to looking at the highway or if we could plant a visual barrier, it is so loud when we're outside that one cannot have a conversation without either standing within a couple of feet of the other person or raising one's voice. The pollution issue is tremendous to us, as we are now breathing unfiltered unobstructed air directly from a roadway with accommodates 93,000 cars a day. Would you want to breath that air every day?

We have suffered countless effects of having lost our entire wind barrier on this very windy terrain - I'm not even including the damage suffered from the last two winter storms where just about everybody suffered some sort of damage. If you would like a list of the damages, I would be happy to forward that to you. But, just so you get an idea of what I'm talking about, we had roof shingles blown off our house in November within about a week after the clear cutting and three sections of our metal pool fence (which has been bolted onto the pool for ten years) were ripped off the pool's edge. Several of our trees, which grew within the environment that had been there for decades, came down within one month of the clear cutting and fell on our neighbor's property.

Due to the position of the highway and our house on our property, we can see the highway from all four sides of our house - every window provides us with the relentless flashing lights at night that whizz across walls and the ceilings. I'm sure I don't need to point out the devastation to our property value, as well as the tremendous loss of natural habitat. There is no report and survey with which we have been provided that said this was necessary - only that it was within Con Ed's right. I, as well as countless others whose lives have changed, feel they have gone far beyond the scope of their"rights."

You letter also states, "Relative to recent vegetation management activities that have been completed, our staff will continue to work with affected entities, to develop and implement plans to mitigate those impacts where appropriate." I appreciate that sentiment, and I hope it will carry through. As of today, Sunday, April 18, we have been subject to the auditory and visual assault, unnecessary wind damage and an overall unacceptable life at home. It has been five months, and so far not one aspect has been "mitigated." I am tired and stressed beyond words. I have a full-time job as a teacher, a part-time job as a musician, and this has become a constant battle for me - both living on this property and fighting, writing, pleading to get some remediation. You and the Con Edison's representatives are getting a salary for your participation in this. I get headaches and lost sleep for mine.

One of the reasons that I am writing to you is that it is crucial that discussion about Con Edison's trimming activities be separated into the two different facets - that of distribution lines and that of transmission lines. They are two completely different entities with different requirements for reliability. It is annoying and insulting to those of us whose lives have been taken over by this horror to continue to hear about "reliability" and "the blackout of 2003" when we have read the reports and know what they say. And, we know that what was done behind our property, though may have been within Con Edison's scope of rights, should NEVER EVER have happened the way it did.

Please consider this letter a petition to reconsider Case 04-E-0822 as soon as possible, as well as institute Resolution 26-2010 until this can be done.

Also, please let me know when the PSC will "mitigate those impacts," as I have not been able to open a window or enjoy my property, for which I pay taxes and Con Edison utility bills and for which I have rights, for months - even on the couple of days that were quite warm. While most of those who have yards were outside enjoying them, I had to get in my car and get away from my property so I could enjoy the day.

Lastly, I think it is so important for everyone who is dealing with the situation to see the "worst-case scenario" that is resultant from Con Edison's recent clear cutting. Our property is just that. Everyday, we are dealing with and living with every single possible negative effect that could have been resultant from Con Edison's questionable "maintenance." I invite you and anyone else that you feel would benefit from a visit to come to my home and see what we are living with, both inside and outside of our house. I would be happy to provide coffee and refreshments for all visitors.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Kristina Cascone-Bracken
Hartsdale, NY

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