UI heeds customers’ concerns about tree removal

At the beginning of this month, The United Illuminating Co. began discussing a limited pilot program to expand the pruning and removal of trees around overhead power lines in order to reduce threats to reliable electric service and public safety. Although many customers expressed support for the program’s overall goals, many also raised concerns about its potential impact on roadside trees and the character of neighborhoods.

“Our customers spoke and we listened. We heard what they had to say,” said Joseph D. Thomas, vice president for electric system operations at UI. “As a result, we have asked the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to hold a technical meeting so that PURA, UI and other interested parties can discuss the concerns we’ve heard from many of our customers, while also dealing with the initial objective of reducing tree-related outages.”

Thomas said at the meeting, the company will discuss recent developments and explore additional options that could, in fact, leave some trees within the “utility protection zone” — an area extending eight feet to either side of overhead electric lines, from ground to sky.

Under the current plan, when a customer objects to UI’s request to prune or remove a privately-owned tree within the zone, UI honors the customer’s wishes, documents the request and moves to the next location. Work on trees in the public right-of-way needs approval from the city or town’s tree warden. UI would not expect any changes to current customer rights.

However, giving the utility an alternative option would alleviate public concern and offer an additional potential balance in meeting the plan’s ultimate goal — customer reliability during major storm events.

“Based on our experiences, hundreds of customers have already provided their consent when permission is asked to trim or remove trees on their private property that could fall and cause future outages,” Thomas said. “However, trees in the public right-of-way have obviously been a source of concern for some customers, municipal and state elected officials. Hopefully we can find a solution that meets most of the public need.”

Thomas said that UI is sensitive to customers’ and neighbors’ concerns, and will continue to work with local tree wardens, elected officials, community organizations and others to ensure that the program is conducted with transparency, and is appropriate to the neighborhood’s needs.

Typically, PURA’s technical meetings provide an opportunity to discuss aspects of regulatory orders and work through details of the issue at hand. These meetings are open to the public.

The new program was developed as a result of a series of meetings and findings from several stakeholders from local and state officials, special two storm panel, input from other interested parties and the Connecticut General Assembly’s adoption of Public Act 13-298. Public concern and state investigations into the widespread outages that followed extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012 were the catalyst for change.

An estimated 90% of the 210,000 UI customer outages following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 were caused by trees and limbs falling on electrical lines and equipment. Downed trees and limbs were also the main culprit behind the 280,000 customer restored in the days after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. Fairfield Sun, 1000 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton, CT 06484

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress