Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FERC Technical Conference Review

From an industry newsletter Energy Dimensions comes this article - posted online Dec 14,2010 - worthwhile read as it is balanced and does not simply blow-off landowner issues...


FERC Technical Conference Reviews FAC-003-1 in Response to Landowner Complaints of Excessive and Abusive Vegetation Management Practices

The purpose of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Technical Conference on Transmission Vegetation Management Practices held Tuesday, October 26 to review current vegetation management programs and practices under Reliability Standard FAC-003-1 - Transmission Vegetation Management Program (TVMP) resulted from concerns raised by certain landowners and other affected parties about changes in vegetation management practices implemented by utilities following adoption of FAC-003-1 on June 18, 2007.

Two of these groups were represented at the conference, The Indiana Tree Alliance emerged from a local individual property owner’s perspective angered by damage to trees on their property; and, the LORAX working group, a non-profit from New York City’s northern suburbs formed in 2009 after public outcries due to TVMP clear-cutting operations in their region. LORAX helped local municipal governments respond to the outcry with a TVMP Moratorium resolution demanding that the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) cease all vegetation management activities while a public review of the current guidelines was undertaken. The goal was to eliminate what local politicians referred to as a “scorched earth” policy in ROW management.


Read entire article here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Greenburgh-Based Eco Activists Go to Washington to Speak for the Trees

From 11/9/10 Rivertown Patch.com:

Greenburgh-based environmentalists participate in FERC roundtable to argue against clear-cutting practices.
By Lizzie Hedrick

The Greenburgh Environmental Forum's LORAX Working Group chairperson Mark Gilliland appeared before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington DC late last month to discuss the impact of federal regulations on state and regional electric utility companies' implementation of vegetation management plans surrounding active power lines.

"I am very pleased that LORAX had this opportunity to present landowner and environmental concerns at the FERC technical roundtable," said Gilliland, an Irvington resident. "It is imperative that community concerns about property value loss, environmental damage and health impacts of these TVMPs are discussed in the context of both State and Federal regulations and policies."

In reaction to utility companies'—predominantly Consolidated Edison's—practices of clear-cutting trees along power transmission lines in Westchester and the Hudson Valley, a group of concerned residents and officials have banded together to push for stronger regulations preventing deforestation they believe is unnecessary and detrimental to our natural environment.

Facing FERC in the nation's capitol, LORAX representatives argued that the current vegetation management programs followed by Transmission Operators—or companies responsible for transmitting energy within a given region—in New York have lead to "severe economic, aesthetic and environmental damage along the transmission rights-of-way due to excessive removal and clear-cutting of all trees and vegetation, lack of adequate storm-water and erosion controls, over-reliance on herbicides, as well as insufficient or inadequate follow-up mitigation."

They said this "scorched earth" approach has been extensively documented by LORAX, the Sierra Club and various municipalities in the region, as well as by both the Rockland and Westchester County Legislatures.

Appearing on the panel of the roundtable were representatives of the utility industry, state and federal regulatory agencies, utility arborists and landowner groups.

As expressed by Mark Hegerle, director of FERC's division of compliance for the Office of Electrical Reliability, the goal of the meeting was to uncover why utilities and state regulators claim "FERC made us do it" in response to public outcries about recent wide-spread tree removals. The discussion covered a wide range of topics including: Review of federal reliability standards, state approval and oversight of utility vegetation management plans, mandatory non-compliance fines, mitigation of environmental impacts and best practices for vegetation management in the rights of way.

"Viable solutions need to be found to prevent further damage—solutions ranging from revision of approved 'best practices' and reduction of non-compliance fines, to requiring detailed environmental reviews and responsible mitigation along the rights of way," Gilliland said.

Currently, utility companies are fined not only for allowing vegetation to exist within a certain spark zone of active power lines, but also for allowing plants to grow into a wider intermediate area further from the line. "We believe government agencies should reduce the penalty structure so that the utility companies don't feel the need to take such drastic measures," Gilliland said.

Though grateful for the opportunity to present his extensive research, Gilliland added that, in reality, changing the regulations will be difficult.

"Vegetation management plans for each utility company must be approved at both the state and federal levels," Gilliland said. "The second issue is oversight: Once the plans are approved, who is regulating their practices?"

According to Gilliland, nobody is.

He said the the state and government agencies responsible for overseeing the process are understaffed and have been "in reactive mode,"—spending all their time responding to community outrage over clear-cutting, rather that stopping it from happening.

"No vegetation implementation plan specifically mentions clear-cutting," Gilliland said. "But they all do it because it is cheaper to send someone in with a chainsaw than to have an arborist actively select which trees pose a real threat to power lines. It also means they have to come back less often to maintain the rights of way, which is also potentially cheaper."

Several other LORAX members, including Marvin Baum (Rockland County), Amy Kupferberg (Orange County) and Chris Crane, a member of the Westchester County Legislature, attended the FERC roundtable and lobbied strongly for changes to vegetation management regulations and policies. LORAX Working Group founding members include: Patricia Podolak (Yorktown), Susan Porcino (Ardsley), Anne Jaffe-Holmes (Irvington), David Bedell (Sleepy Hollow), and Walter Rodriquez (Yonkers).

"I certainly hope something was accomplished by attending the roundtable and presenting the home-owner and landowner's perspective so that FERC could have a more balanced picture of what's going on," Gilliland said. "What they will do with it, I'm not sure."

Friday, October 29, 2010

PRESS RELEASE: LORAX TESTIFIES IN WASHINGTON AT FERC



PRESS RELEASE  
    
              
Contact:           Mark Gilliland                                    
                        GEF LORAX Working Group
                        c/o Greenburgh Nature Center                                   
                        99 Dromore Rd
Scarsdale, NY 10583                                                
                        (914) 714-3056                                                                     
                        lorax@markg.org                   

October 26, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LORAX TESTIFIES IN WASHINGTON AT FERC
TRANSMISSION LINE VEGETATION MANAGEMENT
TECHNICAL ROUNDTABLE


LORAX presents Landowner and environmental concerns with right-of-way clear-cutting.

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – The GEF LORAX Working Group chairperson, Mark Gilliland, appeared before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Electrical Reliability Committee on Tuesday, October 26, 2010, to discuss the impacts of Federal regulations (FAC-003-1) on state and regional electric utilities’ implementation of Transmission Vegetation Management Plans (TVMPs).

“I am very pleased that LORAX had this opportunity to present landowner and environmental concerns at the FERC technical roundtable,” said Mark Gilliland, Chairman, GEF LORAX Working Group. “It is imperative that community concerns about property value loss, environmental damage and health impacts of these TVMPs are discussed in the context of both State and Federal regulations and policies.”

As reported to the FERC panel by LORAX, the current vegetation management programs defined by the various Transmission Operators (TOs) in New York have lead to severe economic, aesthetic and environmental damage along the transmission rights-of-way (ROWs) due to excessive removal and clear-cutting of all trees and vegetation, lack of adequate stormwater and erosion controls, over-reliance on herbicides, as well as insufficient or inadequate follow-up mitigation. This “scorched earth” approach has been extensively documented by LORAX, the Sierra Club and various municipalities in the region, as well as by both the Rockland and Westchester County Legislatures.

Appearing on the panel of the roundtable were representatives of the utility industry, state and federal regulatory agencies, utility arborists and landowner groups. As stated by Mark Hegerle, FERC’s Director, Division of Compliance, Office of Electrical Reliability, the goal of the meeting was to uncover why utilities and state regulators claim “FERC made us do it” in response to public outcries about recent wide-spread tree removals. The roundtable discussion covered a wide range of topics including: review of Federal reliability standards (FAC-003-1), state approval and oversight of utility TVMPs, mandatory non-compliance fines, mitigation of environmental impacts, utility ROW easement agreements, “best practices” vegetation management of the ROW.

A complete video archive of the roundtable as well as the meeting agenda can be viewed online at:

“Viable solutions need to be found to prevent further damage – solutions ranging from revision of approved ‘best practices’ and reduction of non-compliance fines, to requiring detailed environmental reviews and responsible mitigation along the ROWs,” Gilliland noted.

Several other LORAX members, including Marvin Baum (Rockland County), Amy Kupferberg (Orange County) and Chris Crane (Westchester County Legislature), attended the FERC roundtable and lobbied strongly for needed changes to TVMP regulations and policies.

GEF LORAX Working Group founding members also include: Patricia Podolak (Yorktown), Susan Porcino (Ardsley), Anne Jaffe-Holmes (Greenburgh Environmental Center), David Bedell (Sleepy Hollow), and Walter Rodriquez (Yonkers).

For more information including LORAX submittals to recent NYSPSC proceedings on vegetation management, please visit the LORAX Working Group blog at: http://loraxwg.blogspot.com.

“Trees lost to date along the ROWs in Westchester Country provided an estimated $6 million dollars annually in clean air and stormwater benefits for our communities. To avoid similar financial and health impacts in the future, we must better balance electric reliability with the urgent need to protect our local environment,” Gilliland observed.
#  #  #




Photo attached by LORAX. Caption: “Members of GEF LORAX Working Group outside of the FERC building after the Technical Roundtable, October 26, 2010. From left to right: Mark Gilliland, Amy Kupferberg, Chris Crane, Marvin Baum.”


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Download .pdf version of Press Release here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

LORAX Submissions for FERC Roundtable

Here are our LORAX submissions for the FERC Roundtable:

Westchester BOL Moratorium Resolution 26-2010 passed 3/1/10 (Download as .pdf)

Observations and Recommendations concerning TVMPs in Westchester and Rockland (Download as .pdf)

Short statement by LORAX chairperson to the Roundtable (Download as .pdf)

Follow-up statement of 10/28/10 by LORAX chairperson to FERC committee for inclusion in Docket No. AD11-2-000. (Download as .pdf)

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Watch the Roundtable via web video streaming here (event page).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

LORAX to Attend FERC Meeting on Transmission Line Vegetative Management Issues - Docket No. AD11-2-000 - Tuesday, Oct 26th, Washington, DC.

Overview of meeting (from invitation emails):

Staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is organizing a conference to discuss vegetation management practices and related topics. [...] We’d like to highlight the importance of good vegetation management, noting that we’ve generally seen good results with FAC-003 (reduced to zero vegetation contacts over a couple of quarters, but 3 recent touches are indicators of ongoing concern, as shown by a recently issued NERC Industry Advisory. We want to acknowledge landowner concerns over certain methods (e.g., clear cutting), address how such methods are established and approved, and discuss possible ways to mitigate the impact while ensuring reliability.

We propose to structure a panel discussion more like a guided discussion than a series of prepared statements read into the record. So we plan to invite NERC staff to discuss Reliability Standard FAC-003; a couple of utility representatives to discuss current practices, the TVMP, and ROW agreements; a landowner representative to discuss common complaints and concerns; one or two state commission/government representatives to discuss jurisdictional issues; and an arborist to speak to vegetation management issues and solutions from an arborists point of view.

[The conference will be held October 26 at the Commission’s offices from 1pm-5pm.]

Attached is the supplemental notice of the conference containing the list of panelists and the order in which we will address issues. As requested by some of you, following my opening remarks, each of you will have five minutes for introductory remarks. We will then move directly into a collegial discussion of the issues as outlined on the supplemental notice.

The conference will be Webcast. Anyone with Internet access who desires to listen to this event can do so by navigating to www.ferc.gov’s Calendar of Events and locating this event in the Calendar.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Requiring Carbon and Oxygen Impact Analysis for TVMPs

Marvin Baum, a LORAX Utility Analyst had mentioned in his presentation at Ramapo Town Hall on August 23, 2010, that the PSC should consider mandating carbon and oxygen impact statements for its own proposed actions, such as in Case 04-E-0822, as well as for all proposed actions by utility companies.

Read the Proposal (as a pdf file).

Regarding Con Edison's Manipulation of Public Opinion Thru Misinformation

Attached is a file that consolidates LORAX comments of September 20, 2010, with Con Edison’s Press Release of March 4, 2009, regarding its 2009 “tree trimming” plans for Westchester, into a single document. This file has been posted to PSC Case 10-E-0155 and distributed to the Commissioners and staff.

Read the analysis: Regarding Con Ed and O&R in Case 10-E-0155.pdf

Monday, September 20, 2010

Herbicide Use Kills Bees - Illegal Application During Clear Cut TVM?

A recent email from a homeowner in Chester, N.Y. where the O&R subcontractor, Lewis Tree Service, has destroyed over 300 trees and killed off his honey bees:

I also have [at least] three of my honey bee hives that are dead, possibly from the spraying of herbicides. One of the men gave me a copy of the Herbicide pamphlet warnings. It is called Accord Concentrate made by Dow AgroSciences. It is labeled Hazardous to Humans & Animals ! It probably killed my bees. But I have no way of proving it. Other than the pamphlet and the pictures of the Herbicide spraying truck on my land! The pamphlet is pretty scary. The Inherent Risks of Use page is a statement that says "unintended consequences" may result because of unfavorable temperatures, humidity, wind direction and speed, over- application, etc...etc...
I can go on, but it boils down to Herbicides are poison and should not be used on this planet!

The LORAX response:

The issue about the herbicide application that killed your honeybees is potentially VERY SIGNIFICANT. First of all, does the deed granting the ROW even allow use of herbicides. (We are assuming for this discussion that the honeybees were on your property and you own the ROW. Is this correct?)

O&R does not use herbicides in Rockland and if your ROW agreement does not spell it out specifically, then they should have gotten your permission to use the herbicides before making the application. How did they apply the herbicides?

You must submit your story and evidence ASAP to the Secretary of the PSC (send to: secretary@dps.state.ny.us and jaclyn_brilling@dps.state.ny.us), as the related case 10-E-0155 will be closing next week (Sept 28). Indicate "CASE 10-E-0155" somewhere in the Subject line of the email.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Post O&R Clear Cut Video - Incursion into Delineated Wetlands

View the following video documenting O&R's activity in Orange County:



See all O&R TVMP movie postings by kathr754 on YouTube.


Kathy, the homeowner emailed:

Nearly all the cutting was done within the delineated area. In fact, when I confronted the Lewis crew about the wetland flags, they said that if they had known before hand, they would have come through and done any tree trimming and cutting by hand. They only realized it was delineated wetland after they found one flag crumpled under some of the aftermath of the clearing. Even so, they made little effort to minimize further damage and kept right on using their big "chipper or mower". I called " Eric", the O&R rep, and he asked me what I would like done. I told him some sort of restoration but never heard back. Shortly after they sent a survey team out to survey all the properties. My neighbor , Mr. Bob Mason, had complained that they were reading the survey maps wrong and actually cutting more than was called for along the ROW.

--

Read her complete submission to the PSC Case 10-E-0155 filings here (pdf).

Actions to Take If Utility TVMP ROW Clear Cutting Hits Your Property or Neighborhood

The most effective actions in "self-defense" you can take are as follows:
  • Document the name of the utility contractor at work. Try to speak with and get names of supervisors, if any, on-site. 
  • Insist upon seeing the project work order documentation and ensure there are properly flagged survey markings.
  • Look at your easement agreement to ensure that the requirements are (were) followed "to the letter" by the utility.
  • Create a concise narrative documentation (WORD .doc) with before, during & after photos of your property.
  • Make sure you local, county and state politicians know what is occurring/has occurred.
  • Insist upon on-site meetings with utility to discuss mitigation -- and include politicians, PSC, LORAX reps, if possible.
  • Report complaints to Public Service Commission (PSC) via consumer complaint web page or posted 1-800 complaint phone number.
  • File materials to PSC CASE 10-E-0155 (due before Sept 28?) regarding your situation including photos. This can be done via the PSC website or via email to secretary@dps.state.ny.us with doc, photos, etc.
  • Contact local newspapers, TV reporters, local or regional environmental groups, etc. 
  • Start a letter writing campaign to media, environmental groups and to local and regional politicians.
  • Contact the NYSDEC is you believe environmental infractions occurred on state-monitored land (eg: wetlands and water courses). This includes lack of proper erosion and sediment controls.
  • Meet and consult with neighbors. Share stories, facts and ideas. Act together. Don't be isolated!
All of this helps to increase visibility of the events as well as to apply broader pressure on the utility and its contractor to come to some sort of mitigation agreement that makes sense.

Monday, September 13, 2010

RiverKeeper Posts Its Submission to Case 10-E-0155

Clear-cutting detrimental to watershed and property values

Last month, Riverkeeper testified at the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing about comments we submitted concerning Con Edison’s right-of-way vegetation management plan. Riverkeeper viewed problematic maintenance work in Yorktown, New York, where the company clear-cut excessive trees and other vegetation, and we received reports of Con Ed’s failure to notify property owners of the extent of its proposed vegetation management activities.


See full details at RiverKeeper site:

http://www.riverkeeper.org/news-events/news/safeguard-drinking-water/rvk-testifies-at-ny-state-psc-hearing-on-con-edison’s-right-of-way-practices/

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Letter from LORAX to the PSC

An email sent earlier this week to the PSC:

Dear Secretary Brilling,

I know that you have been receiving a lot of letters and complaints concerning recent activity by O&R (Orange and Rockland) in the Chester, NY area of Orange County. I won't take time to go into details of the various specific concerns and impacts caused by the work (seemingly targeted at lines in the 69kV to 138kV range).

But what does concern me and the members of LORAX is that such activity can continue in light of the history over the last 3 or 4 years of O&R's (and its contractor's) pattern of behavior executing its TVMP in Rockland and Orange Counties.

It is sad and totally unnecessary that this destruction continues unabated even as the PSC has an open review case 10-E-0155 on the matter.

The pattern of misinformation, lack of training and oversight, disregard for state environmental regulations, and the over-zealous and wanton destruction of our valuable natural resources has been commented upon in public meetings and by municipal and county resolutions since at least 2008 (for O&R) and 2009 (for Con Edison).

The fact that Federal regulations do not require the level of destruction (wide-swath clear cutting) being undertaken has been discussed and agreed upon - even by your own DPS staff who oversee the transmission utilities.

The fact is that there is no statistical or scientific proof that such over-clearing of transmission line "air gap" safety zones is actually required based upon the outage history (or lack thereof) in our lower NY state region.

The fact is that in our densely populated counties many property owners now face major environmental problems which they must mitigate at great expense to themselves, often ranging into the thousands of dollars.

The impacts and costs of mitigation continue to grow as these TVMPs continue unchecked and under-supervised by PSC DPS staff. As Legislator Abinanti remarked at the recent PSC Case meeting in Greenburgh, [I paraphrase roughly:] "The clear cut destruction along the transmission ROWS in Westchester alone has done more to undermine all of the county's hard-fought environmental regulations and progress. The negative impact literally swamps any benefits from any of these green / sustainability initiatives."

It is not enough to merely listen -- having heard all of the reports and seen the documentation, action must be taken to minimize further impacts!

It is time that the PSC step forward and explain to the public exactly what reasoning prevents a moratorium from being implemented NOW.

Why won't the PSC simply stop the on-going activity via an immediate stop-work moratorium (excluding "emergency actions") while the case review continues??

The fact that the PSC will not take such action in the face of wide-spread public and governmental outrage is why our state legislators need to take action in the next session to force the PSC into being a public oversight commission, not just a "shill" for the utility companies.

Remember: it only takes 10 minutes to fell a mature Oak, but it takes 100 years to grow one back. Its time for the PSC to do the right thing for the residents of NYS and for our shared environment.

Regards,

-mg-

---

Mark Gilliland
GEF LORAX Working Group, Chairperson


cc: PSC Members

PSC CASE 10-E-0155 Hearing Tomorrow in Albany

PSC Hearing tomorrow:

5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
September 13, 2010
Albany Public Library
Main Library
161 Washington Avenue, 2nd Floor
Albany, NY 12210


Image of Ridge Road / Sprain Parkway clear cut area from Google Earth - shows attempted remediation along Parkway.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Warwick Passes LORAX's TVMP Cessation Resolution

The Town of Warwick rapidly followed the lead of the Chester Town Board who passed a Cessation Moratorium resolution last night.

From Amy K., who attended tonight's Warwick town council meeting:

They drafted the Resolution and passed it tonight.

I actually stood up and thanked them. Supervisor Sweeten thanked us [LORAX] for making him aware of the situation and supplying the Resolution.


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Read more in the article from the 9/10/10 issue of the Warkwick Advertiser (local paper).

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Read the Warwick resolution (pdf file).

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Eyewitness Account: Letter from Chester Homeowner to PSC

Dear Secretary Brilling,

My name is John DeRosso, my family and I reside in Chester, N.Y. In the last two and one half weeks my family  has been put through a nightmare I wouldn't wish on anyone. Lewis tree company which I understand is contracted by Orange and Rockland literally clear cut a swath of land in front of my house 135' wide by 600' long.

There was not a tree left standing.

What took us 17 years to build and nurture was literally destroyed in two days, and now resembles a dirt parking lot. Trees that were 90' away were left standing but their branches which hung into the easment were cut off. I still have 30' and 40' tree trunks standing in parts of the ROW.

We were told over and over if they failed to comply they (Orange and Rockland) could be fined anywhere from $1,000 to $1,000,000 per day. That seems very hard to argue with.

Originally when my wife was given notice by a representitive from Lewis tree company that they would be coming in to do "trimming and clearing", she asked if "anything would change." She was told "no". She told me that evening, and given that we were told the same thing in previous years, we assumed they would be doing the same maintanance they had done before. We were totally unaware, nor were we informed of the changes we were later told came about in 2005...

I later found out that many of my neighbors that were having far less done on thier property were given literature as well as contact numbers. We received neither. Three days after the clear cutting when I asked the Lewis representitive who spoke to my wife why we didn't get any of the paper work, I was told he "didn't have anything on him at the time."

To add insult to injury I found out last week that the night before they clear cut my property there was a meeting scheduled in Montgomery in Orange county to open this issue to public comment. At a meeting today with Orange and Rockland representitives I asked why noone was informed of this meeting and I was told it was in the paper.

Today's meeting which was held at our house included concerned neighbors, representitives of Orange and Rockland (which included Mike Grant, Mark Beamish, and Keith Still), Senator Larkin, Assemblywoman Calhoun, Legislator Dan Casticone, and town supervisor Steve Neuhaus. Two members of LORAX were also there as observers. I have to say without the guidance, help, and support form the members of LORAX, I don't know what we would have done.

Most of the people attending  the meeting were very taken back by what they had seen and had a hard time comprehending why it was done. The Orange and Rockland representatives characterized what happened as a "miscommunication". Unfortunately that answer doesn't give us our property or our lives back. After the meeting I have to say I was probably more confused and angry then I was before.

There will be a town meeting tomorrow evening in Chester, N.Y. to adress the issue of passing a resolution similar to those passed in both Rockland and Westchester counties to have Orange and Rockland cease it's clear cutting activities. I also spoke to the town supervisor in Warwick today and will be forwarding him information I have accumulated over the past week.

I've spent the last few days speaking to people in the area and informing them of what happened to us and may happen to them. I have also brought this to the attention of local and county newspapers and will also be talking to any other available media outlets. I personally feel that Orange and Rockland needs to greatly improve thier interaction with the public as well as take a hard look at their policies and practices when it comes to dealing with these type of issues which can have such a drastic effect on people's lives. As I understand it Marvin Baum has already sent you pictures of our property, so I won't bother to do the same. I would like to thank you for your attention to this matter.

Regards,
John DeRosso
Chester,N.Y.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Lame-o Excuses - O&R Tries to Duck and Cover

As reported by LORAX member and utility activist Amy K. who attended the on-site meeting this morning (Wednesday 9/8/10):

They [O&R Reps] started with the blackout of 2003.

We negated that....I told [O&R] that there is a published time line [from the federal incident analysis study of what occurred] that [they] should read [to get the full facts of the chain of events leading up to the blackout. This has been discussed extensively elsewhere in PSC submissions by LORAX.]

Then they [O&R] shifted to the 2005 mandate from the PSC. I reminded them that at the Yonkers meeting in March, Dave Morrell [of the PSC staff] stated that the Utilities were not mandated to clear cut. When Nancy Calhoun [elected official] asked again why they would cut so much, I said "because they could" and everyone repeated it.

They did not look good, and of course they are blaming Lewis [tree service contractors who also did the work in Westchester] for everything.

There is a town hall meeting in Chester [tonight (Wednesday)], and Warwick on Thursday.

It was fun... the local elected officials were good.


--

Amy added more unbelievably lame-o O&R interchange in a later message:

Michael Grant the PR guy [O&R] mentioned the 2005 Order, and I said that I was glad he brought it up because although it is very aggressive, it does make mention of property owners and [inventorying] buffers. Michael first replied by saying that he wasn't a lawyer and really couldn't discuss specifics. I answered him by saying that he didn't have to be a lawyer, he just needed to know how to read. I had read it, it is just 32 pages. He than said that this property would not qualify as a buffer. I asked him why not?? - no answer. He was not very pleased with me.

Marvin brought up the O&R modified TVMP for residential areas and Mark Beamish [O&R] said this area wasn't really considered residential. I asked the town Supervisor if the area was zoned for residential and he said yes. Then Beamish said it wasn't really a front yard because there wasn't a swing set.

I plan to discuss this episode in Albany.

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Chester Town Board Passes Resolution

Follow-on report by Amy K. from the Chester Town board meeting:

We swooped in and took O&R out.

The Town of Chester passed their resolution tonight.

At the town hall meeting residents were also given an opportunity to speak. I also spoke.
I encouraged participation in case #10-E-0155.

Channel 12 was there.

Supervisor Neuhaus also stated that O&R has agreed to stop the cuttings. Neuhaus and Warwick Supervisor are meeting tomorrow and they are also reaching out to other neighboring [towns].

Supervisor Neuhaus was definitely impressed by the LORAX work!!

Clear Cutting Transmission ROW Again - this time its O&R in Orange County!

A resident of Chester, NY reported:

In the last week I have seen my property go from a picturesque country scene to the aftermath of a bombing courtesy of Orange and Rockland utilities. They are clear cutting Rights of Way on privately owned easments with no regard for the property owners or the environment. Fortunately they met with stiff resistance slowing them down only for the time being. They literaly cut a swath 135' by 600' right across the front of my property destroying mature, oak, maple, and walnut trees. The aftermath is nothing short of a war zone. I have been speaking to state politicians as well as newspapers but my fear is without more public awareness this will be fruitless. Any assistance or attention you could bring to this would be greatly appreciated. Most people being affected are not even aware of the extent until it is too late. I would be more then happy to speak to someone in your organization to fill them in on the details as well as pictures of what has transpired.

Thank you,
                   John DeRosso
                   Chester, N.Y.

This email was forwarded to the LORAX working group, whose members responded with advice and additional information. For example, one email provides the following advice:

it is critical to check your legal documents (utility ROW easement agreement) to ensure that O&R followed everything to the letter. The fact that they did not provide adequate notification, nor did they explain clearly the extent of the VM action and receive your "ok" indicates strongly that their TVMP (approved by PSC) procedures were violated. The other point I made in previous email concerns trying to get DEC involved (based upon photos) concerning what appears to be violations of stormwater and erosion control regulations.

And other email, this advice:

By the way, if you can start to generate public outcry and get in the face of your local town board, you can have them pass a version of the resolution (which I forwarded to you earlier). By getting folks in your community organized and in the face of the town council (town board), the local politicians begin to sweat enough to take action. Of course, lots of press coverage, letters to editor, even public demonstrations can help to get the right amount of attention.


Early Tuesday morning, Sept 7 at 7:30am, there was an on-site meeting with representatives of O&R, local residents and local politicians. From a LORAX participant's report:

The meeting went very well from everyone’s perspective… except, of course, O&R.  People were really angry about this.  Senator Larkin and Assemblywoman Calhoun were there, as were local officials.  Some of the stuff they did was ridiculous and it was an absolute repeat of “Blauvelt 2008” in every way.

O&R admitting failing to give proper notification, but they argued that they didn’t need to follow the modified guidelines because this residential subdivision with about 30-50 homes with hundreds of residents, underground utilities, curbing, cul-de-sacs, etc., was actually not a “residential area” by O&R’s unwritten definition of a “residential area” and therefore not subject to O&R’s Transmission Vegetation Management Plan approved by the PSC in 2008, which allowed tree trimming in areas outside the wire zone for transmission lines of under 200kV.  In this particular case, the transmission line that O&R claimed required complete tree removal as far as 85’ away was only 69kV.

--

Please take a look at the results of tree removal operations in Chester, NY:  
According to the homeowner, the transmission line adjoining his home is a 69kV.  He also indicated:   “Not one tree was directly under the wires. The closest tree was around 30' away. They used the 85' on one side to get the majority of the trees. I think at best maybe one tree could hit a wire if it completely fell over.”

Finally, here is a pdf of a letter sent by Marvin Baum, utility analysis for the LORAX working group, to the Secretary of the PSC concerning this matter. 

We are all waiting to see what, if anything, the PSC will do in response to this continued egregious tree demolition by O&R (a subsidiary of Con Edison). Both utilities have proven to be recidivist in their TVMP behaviors, regardless of the degree and volume of public outcry. As County Legislator Tom Abinanti said at the recent Greenburgh PSC meeting concerning Case 10-E-0155, "Either the PSC has to take action to correct these problems, or the State Legislature will take action [to compel the PSC to act as a responsible public oversight agency]."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

PSC Public Hearings: Important Lobbying Notes, Schedule Info & Alternative Submission Methods

There are three important changes in vegetation management which all of us can lobby the PSC to include in any updated guidelines based upon  findings from the current case (Case 10-E-0155): 

1) environmental analysis – wetlands, water courses, habitats, impact of loss of tree buffers on air, noise, visual pollution, etc. Like any SEQRA review, the goal should be towards minimizing detrimental impacts. (Analysis should be segment-by-segment, not state-wide.)

2) notification – a minimum of 60 days verified notification for homeowners/property owners, a minimum of 30 days for a town-hall like public meeting to review and receive feedback on planned vegetation management. (During clearing operations, a dedicated 7/24 emergency complaint hotline should be available for property owners and municipal officials.)

3) mitigation – mandatory replanting, stomwater and erosion controls, etc. must be built into the vegetation management plans from the start. Mitigation costs should not be borne by individual residents or property owners for impacts caused by utility line clearing. (Full mitigation for past clearing activities during 2007 thru 2010 in Rockland and Westchester must be mandated by PSC, as well!)

Another change in PSC guidelines that the LORAX Working Group has been advocating is the adoption of an eco-friendly "tiered management" approach to vegetation management along transmission lines:

This means that the farther from the centerline of the transmission towers one goes towards the edges of the right-of-way (ROW), the taller the vegetation that can safely remain standing. So, at a distance of 50 feet from the centerline, a tree perhaps 35ft tall is "safe". At 100 feet from the centerline, a tree 80ft tall is "safe".

Thus, rather than mindlessly clear cutting the entire ROW corridor (resulting in significant environmental, health and property value impacts), a more natural "tiered" landscape remains that does not compromise line safety. Tiered management reduces habitat loss, erosion, air quality impacts, etc. It also reduces the foothold for invasive plants and expanding deer populations.

Finally, with a focus on the need for greater environmental awareness, vegetative buffers must be maintained. The PSC guidelines from 2005 (Case 04-E-0822) should be modified to require that riparian & wetland buffers, view-shed buffers and road-crossing buffers (to name a few) must be maintained and enhanced, not clear cut.
Plan to come out and make your voice heard by the PSC!
Scheduled local hearings:

• Monday, August 23 - 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Ramapo Town Hall, 237 Route 59, Airmont.

• Monday, August 23 - 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Yonkers Public Library, Riverfront branch, 1 Larkin Center.

• Tuesday, August 24 - 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Greenburgh Public Library, 300 Tarrytown Road, Elmsford.

Other ways to comment:

• 800-335-2120, press "1" and refer to case 10-E-0155.

• www.dps.state.ny.us/comment.html. In the search box, enter case number 10-E-0155.

• Write to Jaclyn A. Brilling, secretary, Public Service Commission, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350 and refer to case 10-E-0155.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

PSC - NOTICE OF PUBLIC STATEMENT HEARINGS CASE 10-E-0155

NYSPSC has scheduled public hearings on Case 10-E-0155, Electric Utility Transmission Line Right-of-Way Management Practices. Hearings in Westchester County are on August 23 & August 24. See below and full PSC notice released 8/10/10.

Case 10-E-0155, Proceeding on Motion of the Commission as to New York State's Electric Utility Transmission Right-of-Way Vegetation Management Practices.

Public statement hearings are scheduled as follows:

Rockland County
August 23, 2010
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Ramapo Town Hall
237 Route 59 Suffern, NY 10901

Westchester County
August 23, 2010
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Yonkers Public Library
Riverfront Library Branch
1 Larkin Center
Yonkers, NY 10701

August 24, 2010
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Greenburgh Public Library
300 Tarrytown Road
Elmsford, NY 10523

Orange County
August 24, 2010
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Village of Montgomery Senior Center
36 Bridge Street Montgomery, NY 12549

Onondaga County
September 7, 2010
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Syracuse City Hall
Common Council Chambers
233 East Washington St., 3rd Floor
Syracuse, NY 13210

Albany County
September 13, 2010
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Albany Public Library
Main Library
161 Washington Avenue, 2nd Floor
Albany, NY 12210

Friday, July 16, 2010

S-7962C Passes Senate, But With Major Compromise

Good news? - the utility vegetation management notification bill passed the Senate.

Bad news? - It specifically conditionalizes any city, town or village located in the county of WESTCHESTER -- see quote of Section 1 below --

Section 1. 

Section 96-b of the general municipal law is amended by adding a new subdivision 3 to read as follows:
3. THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY OF ANY COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR VILLAGE LOCATED IN THE COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER IS HEREBY EMPOWERED TO ENACT A LOCAL LAW, RULE OR REGULATION CONTAINING THE FOLLOWING PROVISIONS:


--

Full text of passed bill:


BILL NUMBER:S7962C 

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the general municipal law, in relation to authorizing the local legislative body of a municipality located in the county of Westchester to require any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior notice to the local legislative body and the residents of the affected community and to hold a public meeting prior to implementation of such plan 

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: 

Section 1 of the bill amends the general municipal law by adding a new subdivision 3 to empower the local legislative body of any county, city, town or village within the County of Westchester to enact a local law, rule or regulation to require any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan that specifically includes the trimming or cutting of trees and/or the elimination of overgrown vegetation in any county, city, town or village shall give 60 days' notice prior to such activity to the community affected thereby. The involved utility company shall hold a public meeting within the affected community at least 30 days prior to the implementation of such plan or activity, providing the residents of such community with the details of such trimming, cutting, and/or vegetation management plan, and providing residents with an opportunity to be heard with respect to such plan. The legislation also allows for a utility company to not notify or hold public hearing in case of an emergency situation deemed to be a threat to public safety and welfare. The legislation also sets forth penalties if any utility fails to notify and/or hold public hearing will be subject to a civil penalty which will result in a fine up to $5,000 for the first violation and up to $10,000 for two or more violations within a five year period. This 

Section also states that these provisions shall not apply to any utility company that operates an interstate natural gas pipeline that is subject to the jurisdiction of the federal energy regulatory commission.



Section 2 is the immediate effective date. JUSTIFICATION:

Consistently for several years, Consolidated Edison, a utility regulated by the State's Public Service Department, as well as other utility companies in New York State, has repeatedly entered the process of what they deem to be necessary tree removal due to the proximity of overgrown trees near power lines in residential areas of Westchester County. However, many of the residents in communities of Yonkers, Greenburgh and Mt. Pleasant, as well as many others, have been dissatisfied with the process from its incipiency. Many argued that far too many trees were removed yielding various consequences that could have been avoided had there been a mechanism for public input especially regarding site selection and the extent of the trimming.

These consequences include the creation of naked areas that leave sudden drop offs as well as the spread of branches and wood chips making child friendly areas potentially harmful. Additionally, the removal of trees along the New York State Thruway and Sprain Brook Parkway has caused an increase in noise and artificial light entering homes throughout the affected residential areas. According to members of local environmental conservation groups, the trees in many of these affected areas served as protections to residents from natural processes such as flooding and erosion, which can lead to property damage and personal injury. Several homes have already experienced some of these results as water has run into basements and increased wind speeds have caused damage to several houses.



LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New Bill
2010

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None to the State.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This bill will take effect immediately.
S7962C Text
S T A T E O F N E W Y O R K
7962--C
Cal. No. 929 I N SENATE May 27, 2010
Introduced by Sens. STEWART-COUSINS, OPPENHEIMER -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Local Government -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee -- reported favorably from said committee, ordered to first and second report, ordered to a third reading, amended and ordered reprinted, retaining its place in the order of third reading -- again amended and ordered reprinted, retaining its place in the order of third reading

AN ACT to amend the general municipal law, in relation to authorizing the local legislative body of a municipality located in the county of Westchester to require any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior notice to the local legislative body and the residents of the affected community and to hold a public meeting prior to implementation of such plan THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:


Section 1.

Section 96-b of the general municipal law is amended by adding a new subdivision 3 to read as follows:
3. THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY OF ANY COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR VILLAGE LOCATED IN THE COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER IS HEREBY EMPOWERED TO ENACT A LOCAL LAW, RULE OR REGULATION CONTAINING THE FOLLOWING PROVISIONS:
A. ANY UTILITY COMPANY INVOLVED IN A VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PLAN THAT SPECIFICALLY INCLUDES THE CUTTING, TRIMMING AND/OR REMOVAL OF TREES IN ANY COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR VILLAGE SHALL GIVE SIXTY DAYS NOTICE PRIOR TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SUCH ACTIVITY TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE COMMUNITY AFFECTED THEREBY. NO SUCH ACTIVITY SHALL BE COMMENCED UNTIL AFTER SUCH UTILITY COMPANY HAS HELD A PUBLIC MEETING IN RELATION THERETO AT LEAST THIRTY DAYS PRIOR, AT WHICH THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY AND THE RESIDENTS OF SUCH AFFECTED COMMUNITY SHALL BE PROVIDED WITH THE DETAILS OF SUCH TRIMMING, CUTTING, REMOVAL AND/OR VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PLAN AND WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD ON SUCH MATTERS; B. IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY SITUATION DEEMED TO BE A THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY AND WELFARE, SUCH UTILITY COMPANY SHALL NOT BE REQUIRED TO EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD17542-11-0
S. 7962--C 2 GIVE NOTICE OR TO HOLD A PUBLIC MEETING PRIOR TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SUCH A VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PLAN; AND C. ANY UTILITY COMPANY THAT VIOLATES THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION SHALL BE LIABLE TO A CIVIL PENALTY WHICH SHALL RESULT IN A FINE OF UP TO FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A FIRST TIME VIOLATION AND UP TO TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR TWO OR MORE VIOLATIONS INCURRED WITHIN A FIVE YEAR PERIOD. SUCH MONEYS COLLECTED PURSUANT TO THIS PARAGRAPH SHALL BE DEPOSITED INTO AN ACCOUNT MAINTAINED BY THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY OF THE AFFECTED LOCALITY. SUCH LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY SHALL ESTABLISH SUCH ACCOUNT, TO BE KNOWN AS THE TREE CONSERVATION FUND, FOR THE RECEIPT OF ALL SUCH MONEYS, AND SAID MONEYS SHALL BE UTILIZED BY SUCH LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY EXCLUSIVELY TO DEVELOP, IMPLEMENT AND/OR MAINTAIN TREE CONSERVATION PROJECTS WITHIN THE AFFECTED LOCALITY. D. THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SUBDIVISION SHALL NOT APPLY TO ANY UTILITY COMPANY THAT OPERATES AN INTERSTATE NATURAL GAS PIPELINE THAT IS SUBJECT TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION.

S 2. This act shall take effect immediately. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Electric Power Research Institute - Publication Reference

from the EPRI website:

Balancing cost, reliability and environmental protection are major challenges for the power industry. To remain competitive, electric utilities need information and tools to cost-effectively address environmental concerns related to the development and upgrade of rights-of-way (ROW) corridors as well as the management of existing ones. Through deliberate planning and collaboration with electric utility advisors, the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Rights-of-Way: Siting, Vegetation Management, and Avian Issues Program has more than a decade of research and synthesis of lessons learned available. Organized by topical area, this reference allows quick access to a library of relevant results. To get a specific listing, just click on desired topic. An abstract of each publication is also available; just click on a report title or go to www.epri.com and search for the report number. 

Access the EPRI research on Rights-of-Way Issues - download pdf document.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

PSC Submission Documents from LORAX working group - Reply Comments

The following documents were submitted to the PSC on July 6, 2010 by LORAX Working Group as part of the Reply Comments phase of Case 10-E-0155. Original filings referred to herein can be found at the online Document Matters database for the PSC Case. The original Case filings by LORAX (June 16,2010) can be found at this posting.

LORAX Reply Comments for PSC Case 10-E-0155 - Con Edison.pdf

Additional LORAX Response to CE-OR Comments 7-6-10.pdf

hLORAX Reply Comments for PSC Case 10-E-0155 - CN Utilities.pdf

LORAX Reply Comments for PSC Case 10-E-0155 - EEANY.pdf



Here are original Case filings (June 16,2010) and Reply Commnets (July 6,2010) filed for the Weschester Board of Legislators:

WCBOL Comments, Case 10-E-0155.pdf

Appendix A - Preface, Photographs.pdf

Appendix B - WCBOL Res'n. 26-2010.pdf

Appendix C - Petitions to Save Our Woodlands.pdf (large file! 8.5Mb)

Appendix D - Previous Regulations Review.pdf

WCBOL Reply Comments for PSC Case 10-E-0155.pdf

Monday, June 28, 2010

Provisions on trees in the New York Environmental Conservation Law

There are a couple provisions on trees in the New York Environmental Conservation Law. The statute is available at this website:
http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi?COMMONQUERY=LAWS

[THEN: scroll down and click on ENV link]

Read the following sections under this ENV heading:

Article 9, title 15 - REMOVAL OF TREES AND PROTECTED PLANTS

and

Article 53 - TREE CONSERVATION AND URBAN FORESTRY

also of interest perhaps is

Article 49 - PROTECTION OF NATURAL AND MAN-MADE BEAUTY [but probably more for more rural areas]

--

Of special note in the TVMP discussion is Article 53:

§ 53-0101. Legislative purpose.
There is a direct relationship between the planting of trees, shrubs
and associated vegetation in sufficient number in populated areas and
the health, safety, and welfare of communities. Trees and such
vegetation abate noise, provide welcome shade to people, preserve the
balance of oxygen in the air by removing carbon dioxide and fostering
air quality, and add color and verdure to human construction. They also
stabilize the soil and control water pollution by preventing soil
erosion and flooding, yield advantageous microclimatic effects, and
provide a natural habitat for wildlife. The destructive and
indiscriminate removal of trees and related vegetation causes increased
municipal costs for proper drainage control, impairs the benefits of
occupancy of existing residential properties and impairs the stability
and value of both improved and unimproved real property in the area of
destruction, and adversely affects the health, safety, and general
welfare of the inhabitants of the state. In the interests of a greener
and more livable state, it is determined by the legislature that an
affirmative program to encourage the conservation and planting of trees,
shrubs and other vegetation is necessary in the public interest in order
that coming generations will continue to enjoy and benefit by our care
in a green New York.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

PSC Submission Documents from LORAX working group

Here are the documents being submitted by LORAX to the PSC in regards to Case 10-E-0155 (linked to pdf versions of submissions):

1) Response to the 9 Case Questions

2) Gap Analysis of Con Edison TVMP

3) Analysis of SEQR Process for original Guidelines (Case 04-E-0822).

Also available is a letter of support (Word .doc) for, and agreement with, the LORAX filings which may be sent by municipalities or other interested groups to the PSC in response to this Case. (Deadline is Wednesday June 16th, 2010.)

Submission to PSC may be by email (see address below) or uploaded via the PCS/DPS website.

PSC Contact info:

Hon. Jaclyn A. Brilling
Secretary to the Commission
New York State Public Service Commission
Agency Building 3
Albany, NY 12223-1350
Phone: (518) 474-6530
Fax: (518) 486-6081
Email: secretary@dps.state.ny.us

Thursday, June 10, 2010

PSC Eyes New Rules For Trees Around Power Lines

Read the full posting at NYLCV EcoPolitics Daily blog here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Submission Deadline to PSC CASE 10-E-0155 - IMPORTANT!

Submissions for Case 10-E-0155 must be posted or received by 4:30pm June 16th, 2010. For electronic postings, maximum document size is 25MB. Documents can be emailed to: secretary@dps.state.ny.us.

"Pursuant to the Public Service Commission Guidelines for filing with the Secretary, all items posted must be in searchable PDF format."

Here is the link to the submission guidelines:
http://www.dps.state.ny.us/filingguidelines.html

Friday, June 4, 2010

S-6825 Notification Bill - Set-back??

S-6825 has been re-tooled to S-7962 (see below) and is scheduled for consideration by Senate Local Gov't. Committee next Wed., June 9, which is chaired by Sen. Stewart-Cousins. It would now amend the General Municipal Law, rather than the Public Service Law. S7962 is pretty similar to S-6825, but does not have the 30-day lead time requirement on the public meeting. However, there does not appear to be a companion Assembly bill, as of yet, which is needed to become law.

--


STATUS:
S7962  STEWART-COUSINS   No Same as
General Municipal Law
TITLE....Requires any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior notice to the local legislative body and residents of the affected community and hold a public meeting
05/27/10REFERRED TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT

SUMMARY:

STEWART-COUSINS
Amd S96-b, Gen Muni L
Requires any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior notice to the local legislative body and the residents of the affected community and to hold a public meeting prior to implementation of such plan.

BILL TEXT:
                STATE OF NEW YORK
        ________________________________________________________________________
 
                                          7962
 
                    IN SENATE
 
                                      May 27, 2010
                                       ___________
 
        Introduced  by  Sen.  STEWART-COUSINS -- read twice and ordered printed,
          and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Local Government
 
        AN ACT to amend the general municipal law, in relation to requiring  any
          utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior
          notice to the local legislative body and the residents of the affected
          community and to hold a public meeting prior to implementation of such
          plan
 
          The  People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-
        bly, do enact as follows:
 
     1    Section 1. Section 96-b of the general municipal  law  is  amended  by
     2  adding a new subdivision 3 to read as follows:
     3    3.  a.  Any  utility  company involved in a vegetation management plan
     4  that includes the trimming or cutting of trees, and/or  the  elimination
     5  of  overgrown vegetation in any county, city, town or village shall give
     6  sixty days notice prior to the implementation of such  activity  to  the
     7  local  legislative body of such county, city, town or village and to the
     8  residents of the community affected thereby. No such activity  shall  be
     9  commenced  until after such utility company has held a public meeting in
    10  relation thereto, at which the legislative body  and  the  residents  of
    11  such affected community shall be provided with the details of such trim-
    12  ming, cutting, and/or vegetation management plan and with an opportunity
    13  to be heard on such matters.
    14    b.  In  the  event  of an emergency, such utility company shall not be
    15  required to give notice or to hold a public meeting prior to the  imple-
    16  mentation of a vegetation management plan.
    17    § 2. This act shall take effect immediately.
 
 
 
         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                                   LBD17542-01-0

Thursday, June 3, 2010

LORAX TVMP Cessation draft - now draft legislation in Albany

Download a legislative draft (pdf) of the Clear Cut Cessation legislation which LORAX supplied to Assemblymen Spano and Ball as a basic draft. We are now looking for co-sponsors... This should be circulated widely, targeting your local and regional State-level Assemblymen and Senators.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June 11th - Right Tree for the Right Place Municipal Tree Seminar




Dear Friend of Municipal Trees,

Please register to join us for this cutting-edge seminar sponsored by Con Edison, and forward this notice to interested colleagues:

Right Tree for the Right Place
Municipal Tree Seminar

Friday June 11, 2010, 8:30 am-Noon
at the Greenburgh Nature Center

Download program details, speaker list, and registration form.

Please call me if you have any questions about the program or registration.

Looking forward to seeing you on June 11 at the Greenburgh Nature Center!

Best wishes,

Anne Jaffe Holmes
Coordinator of School Programs & Environmental Projects
Greenburgh Nature Center
99 Dromore Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
P: 914-813-1812
F: 914-725-6599



Online presentations (ppt or pdf) linked by speaker:

Mark Gilliland
Jerry Bond
Rick Harper
Frank Buddingh'

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LORAX support materials for Case 10-E-0155 responses

The LORAX working group has put together three documents to help citizens, environmental groups and municipalities formulate responses concerning the PSC's review of transmission line vegetation management opened in Case 10-E-0155. These PDF documents are being periodically updated, but the latest versions can be found at these links:

Response Topics for Case 10-E-0155

LORAX Comments on the PSC's 9 Case Questions

Mind Map: Tripod Diagram of Changing Transmission Vegetation Management Guidelines

LORAX Press Release Concerning PSC Case 10-E-0155 - Policy Review of Vegetation Management



PRESS RELEASE  
                  
Contact:           Mark Gilliland                                    
                        GEF LORAX Working Group
                        c/o Greenburgh Nature Center                                   
                        99 Dromore Rd
Scarsdale, NY 10583                                                
                        (914) 714-3056                                                                     
                        lorax@markg.org                   

May 25, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NYS PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION TO REVIEW POLICY FOR
CLEAR-CUTTING ALONG HIGH-VOLTAGE TRANSMISSION LINES


Policy review opened to interested parties including the general public!


GREENBURGH, NEW YORK – The GEF LORAX Working Group in conjunction with the Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group applaud the New York Public Service Commission’s (PSC) timely decision to re-examine its 2005 policy and guidelines for vegetation management along state high voltage transmission lines. This review, called Case 10-E-0155, has been requested in resolutions drafted by LORAX and passed by Yonkers, Yorktown, Greenburgh, Pleasantville and by the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL), as well as through numerous complaints from affected homeowners and property owners along the transmission lines in Westchester County and elsewhere in the state.

The current Vegetation Management policies of the PSC and the programs defined by the various Transmission Operators (TO) in the state has lead to severe economic, esthetic and environmental damage along the transmission rights-of-way (ROWs) due to excessive removal and clear-cutting of all trees and vegetation as well as insufficient or inadequate follow-up mitigation. This has been clearly documented by LORAX, the Sierra Club and the various municipalities and the BOL along the entire span of the Catskill Aqueduct in Westchester County where Con Edison has implemented a “scorched earth” approach within its easements.

“I am very pleased that LORAX and the Sierra Club have been pressing the PSC to review Con Ed's tree cutting policies. The town and many of our residents recognize that diseased trees and trees that are in danger of falling on Con Ed wires need to be cut. However, during the past year Con Ed has contracted out with a private company to cut trees that were not close to wires or transmission lines and did not pose any danger to the ability of Con Ed to maintain service. It's the hope of the town that the PSC will require Con Ed to provide additional notice to localities before trees are cut. Local governments and residents should be provided with input. If significant tree clearing takes place there should be a replanting requirement. Greenburgh wants to keep the green in our name.”
- Paul Feiner, Supervisor, Town of Greenburgh

“The LORAX working group’s mission is to define regulatory, legislative and procedural solutions for vegetation management practices along both distribution lines and high voltage transmission lines. We are encouraged that Case 10-E-0155 will allow for both expert and public dialog in open forums to include local utility companies, affected citizens and the Public Service Commission. We believe win-win solutions for vegetation management can be defined that serve both reliability and environmental goals.”
- Mark Gilliland, LORAX working group

“Consolidated Edison’s execution of their Transmission Rights-of-Way Land & Vegetation Management Plan has galvanized the residents of Westchester County to reach beyond our own property lines and town borders to unite against further clear cutting of our beautiful neighborhoods. Our goal is to unite and empower all the effected residents and force our elected officials to initiate change.”
- Amy Kupferberg, Greenburgh resident

The power utility failure in Ohio of 2003 resulting in a Northeast blackout, was more the result of a malfunctioning, ancient electrical facility than two fallen trees on a wire, which is the Public Service Commission explanation. This decimation of tens of thousands of forest acreage with short and long term environmental and financial impacts has not, according to the PSC itself, been shown to be a proactive remedy to power outages.
- Gerri Currall, Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group

 
LOAX and Sierra Club believe that the Case 10-E-0155 review and policy adjustment must be based upon current issues of regional and state concern such as global warming, carbon sequestration, stormwater and erosion management, and must include science-based input as to the full range of expected and experienced environmental impacts. Concern for "trickle down" costs (due to follow-on site mitigation and/or property value losses) currently borne solely by private property owners and local municipalities must also be considered – thus the urgent need for requiring site mitigation as a “best practice” within any modern vegetation management policy.

The GEF LORAX working group and Lower Hudson Sierra Club are eager to work with the PSC and with Con Ed to find solutions to the line clearing issues that will ensure system reliability while achieving the economic, environmental and global warming goals supported by Westchester’s communities.

We are recommending the following 5-point plan as a basis of action:

1) Restitution or mitigation for homeowners and municipalities already adversely affected by the transmission line clearings.

2) Public review and update of the PSC’s original 2004 State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) findings. Although the PSC staff estimated that over 1900 acres of land would be impacted statewide by the VM policy, they utilized a  short-form SEQR filing (which is only valid for 10 acres or less) and “checked off” the box which stated that there would be “no environmental impact.” The PSC needs to undertake a full SEQR environmental impact analysis (EIA) complete with alternatives and proposed mitigations.

3) Modernization of vegetation management (VM) guidelines for the transmission line rights-of-way to encompass the new draft Federal standard FAC-003-2 and its technical supplement, as well as current industry and academic views on “best practices.”  (For example, the “modified wire-zone / border-zone”  VM approach allows taller-growing vegetation such as understory trees to remain in the ROW based upon distance from the transmission line centerline. By limiting removal of trees and shrubs in the border zone,  this "tiered management" practice protects both local aesthetics and habitat.)

4) Advance notification by transmission utilities for all targeted property owners (private and municipal). Notification should include on-site consultations, detailed written descriptions of proposed pruning and removals, and a defined arbitration process for handling disagreements and specifying mitigation.

5) Improved training, supervision, quality assurance and oversight of line clearing contractors by the TO and of the Transmission utility staff by the PSC.

The PSC’s Case 10-E-0155 comment period is open until June 16th, 2010. Concerned citizens should consider taking one or more of the following actions:
·      Contact your local town or village politicians, including your BOL representative and State Assemblyman and Senator, to express your concerns and to report any issues you may have experienced personally.
·      Submit comments or complaints to the PSC (via phone, website, mail or email):
Email:                         secretary@dps.state.ny.us (Subject: Case 10-E-0155)
Toll-free line:             800-335-2120 (reference Case 10-E-0155)
Mailing address:       Public Service Commission
Jaclyn A. Brilling, Secretary
Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223
·      Provide testimony and remarks at upcoming PSC public hearings.
·      Encourage others to take action by sharing this news release and/or writing to local papers.

For more information and background documentation, visit http://loraxwg.blogspot.com.

#  #  #



It is important to spread the word on this PSC Case. Download a pdf of this press release as distribute to your own lists.