Friday, March 26, 2010

Con Ed Rate Increase Approved by PSC

Con Ed's three year rate plan was approved by the PSC. Read about it here.



See also article in the NY Times:

Average Con Ed Bill to Rise by $10 Over 3 Years
By PATRICK McGEEHAN Published: March 25, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bill to Provide for the Notification of Impending Emergencies by Electric Corporations to Affected Communities

This is another community notification bill in the legislative works now. Senate Bill S5057A (Perkins) and Assembly Bill A4482A.

S5057A Summary
Provides for the notification of impending emergencies by electric corporations to affected community through outreach to all media and community officials.

Act: AN ACT to amend the public service law, in relation to providing for the notification of impending emergencies by electric corporations.


S5057A Memo
BILL NUMBER: S5057A

TITLE OF BILL :
An act to amend the public service law, in relation to providing for the notification of impending emergencies by electric corporations

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL :
This bill provides notification of impending emergencies by electrical utility corporations to affected communities.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS :
This bill would mandate all electrical utility corporations to notify all media and community officials and request publication of any impending utility emergency to the affected community. The public service commissioner, with the attorney general, is hereby authorized and directed to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to enforce the provisions of section 1. All electrical utility corporations in New York State shall comply with the rules and regulations prescribed by this act.

JUSTIFICATION :
During the recent power outage in New York City, Con Edison failed to notify customers of the impending blackout, which occurred on July 6, 1999, nor were any efforts made to reach a broad number of people through the media. This bill, when enacted would require the utility corporations to do so in the future.

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :
2001/02: A.7085, 2003/04: A.5268, 2005/06: A.4104 2007/08; A.4578
Referred to Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions.

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :
To be determined.

EFFECTIVE DATE :
This act shall take effect immediately.

S5057A Text

S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

5057--A

2009-2010 Regular Sessions

I N  S E N A T E

April 27, 2009
___________
Introduced by Sen. PERKINS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee

AN ACT to amend the public service law, in relation to providing for the notification of impending emergencies by electric corporations

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

1    Section  1.  The public service law is amended by adding a new section
2  54 to read as follows:
3    S 54. NOTIFICATION OF IMPENDING EMERGENCIES. 1. EVERY ELECTRIC  CORPO-
4  RATION  SHALL NOTIFY ALL MEDIA AND COMMUNITY OFFICIALS AND SHALL REQUEST
5  PUBLICATION OF  ANY  IMPENDING  UTILITY  EMERGENCY  TO  ALL  COMMUNITIES
6  AFFECTED.
7    2.  (A)  THE  COMMISSIONER,  IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL,
8  SHALL  PROMULGATE  RULES  AND  REGULATIONS  NECESSARY  TO  ENFORCE   THE
9  PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION.
10    (B)  SUCH  RULES  AND  REGULATIONS SHALL INCLUDE BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO
11  ESTABLISHING PROTOCOLS WHICH ADDRESS THE MAGNITUDE AND SEVERITY  OF  THE
12  IMPENDING EMERGENCY.
13    S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted.

LBD07542-04-9

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pleasantville Passes Clear Cut Moratorium

Pleasantville passes Clear Cut moratorium resolution March 22 unanimously (5 - O).

Unfortunately late last week the PSC answered the county BOL resolution with a letter posted on their website. It baically supports Con Ed and its cutting practice.

This was discussed in detail at the Pleasantville Board meeting. Still, the moratorium vote was taken and the resolution passed precisely because the Board wants continued efforts to see a change in the PSC and Con Ed's practices despite the PSC's latest letter (posted previously).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Replying to the PSC's BOL Rejection Letter

Below you will find a letter from Amy Kupferberg replying to the PSC's rejection letter to the BOL...

Date: March 22, 2010 10:36:54 AM EDT
To: jaclyn brilling
Subject: response to 3/17/10 letter

Madam Brilling,

As I am sure you could imagine, I am extremely disappointed to be forced to wake up to the encompassing sounds of the traffic on the Sprain Brook Parkway everyday. However, this morning I am even further disappointed to read your recent reply letter to Legislator Michael B. Kaplowitz. This extended community has worked very hard to get your attention and rehear Case 04-E-0822, but to know now that there is no hope is devastating for me. I have taken a lot of hits since the clear cutting, and I guess today, I know just how severely weakened I am. But I am not broken yet.

To state "tree related outages directly impact the health and safety of New Yorkers," seems too simplistic. We know from reading the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force: Final Report on Implementation of Recommendations that there were a number of causes for the 2003 blackout. The specifics to which I have previously written to you in great detail. We know that the inadequate back up systems, lack of protocol and coordination were really the issues in that blackout. And although there is mention to vegetation management within that report, there as far more emphasis on the modernization and implementation of the backup systems so that when two trees do make contact with Conductors the entire North East does not go black.

The clear cutting behind my house had nothing to do with electrical reliability. I also read the report prepared by Vantage Consulting issued on October 24, 2007, and if memory serves me the majority of the report clearly demonstrated Con Ed's lack of understanding of it's own internal short fallings when it comes to emergency response. In fact, if I remember correctly, it suggests that Con Ed did not and still may not have a structured master plan and strategy for reliability and emergency preparedness. The report calls for reorganization, training, new personnel when necessary and much more.

It troubles me when you state, "There is no doubt ROW vegetation management can sometimes result in negative public reaction due to aesthetic impacts. However, conflicting interests of electric reliability, aesthetics, and quality of life were considered by the Commission in Case 04-E-0822 when it established requirements for utility vegetation management." Firstly, your statement does not adequately embody the impact that we as homeowners are now forced to live with. My anger and sadness does not come exclusively from my inability to enjoy the simple beauty of nature. It comes from unavoidable and continuous traffic noise outside on my 3.5 acre farm property and inside my home with closed double paned windows. Keep in mind I pay 28K a year in property taxes. As well as, immediate decrease in property value, continued property damage, flooding, wind damage and forced to look at cars and electrical towers in every direction. Con Edison has redefined our neighborhoods and community and choose Westchester County to showcase their transmission lines. Within the PSC mandate, there must be some mention to residential areas.

I have a different history, however, let us for a moment purchasing a home for $850K and within a year or two the real estate market tanks...now your home is valuated at $680K. Big Hit! ONE IN TEN HOMES CURRENTLY IN FORECLOSURE IN THE U.S. Then Con Ed comes in and cuts down every tree in it's sight, exposing your home to a major roadway that handles 93,000.00 cars a day. Now your home is valuated at 530K. What does this do to a community? See where I am going with this?

It is very hard to believe that any thought or care was taken to the environment or to home owners in this recent scorching. In fact, if my memory serves me when Con Ed filed the SEQL short form they stated NONE for environmental impact. We know Con Ed went way beyond their scope, they cut at least 350 trees down directly behind my home that were 150 ft away from towers and wires. They cut down trees of all species, age and health, obliterating an important habitat on the ROW. Their own deceptive vegetation management diagrams shows 120 ft, now they are talking about cutting out to 130 ft. And when it is all said and done they will cut everything they can and then continue to blame it on the poor communication with the the $75 a day tree worker rather than their own corporate plan.

And finally to respond to your statement “We are not aware of any material failure by Con Edison to comply with Commission requirements.” I am not sure what this means exactly, if you refer to paperwork issues, I ask you to consider this plea so important that it goes beyond procedural specifications. Con Ed already admits to “overly aggressive cutting” and the PSC knows from their onsite visits that Con Ed went beyond the scope and clear cut the ROW. I are not asking for anything radical, our community is asking that you rehear case 04-E-0822 and consider perhaps revising the standards more in line with NERC FAC-003-1 and FAC-003-2.

I leave you with this question...if the recent vegetation management plan worked so well, why were the areas that were most heavily impacted by the clear cutting, the hardest hit by both storms and one of the last to get power restored. If it worked so well, our area should have had no or little outages. Are we now to cut down every single tree in existence?

Most Respectfully,

Amy M Kupferberg
Hartsdale Ny 10530

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Public Hearing on Con Ed Right-of-Way Tree Clearing

The PSC’s representatives (most likely David Morrell & Jim Austin) will be coming to Westchester this Thursday regarding the massive tree removals in Westchester, but the broader issues that impact the entire state (including those of us in Rockland) will be at issue (i.e. the legitimacy of the PSC’s Case 04-E-0822).

The PSC has taken a very arrogant attitude despite recent resolutions of the Westchester Board of Legislators, the City of Yorkers, the Town of Yorktown Heights and the Town of Greenburgh that call for a review of the underlying regulations, especially the lack of a proper environmental review and implementation of mitigation plans. The PSC has used the extensive recent tree-related outages on the distribution lines as an excuse to justify cutting even more trees on transmission ROWs, even though no outages were caused on these ROWs.

It’s important that as many people show up to this meeting as possible. If you are able to attend, please do so.



  


  City Hall
  40 South Broadway                  
  Yonkers, NY 10701
  (914) 377-6316









CITY OF YONKERS                               John J. Larkin
Office of the City Council                         Council Member, District 6

PRESS RELEASE

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Councilmember John Larkin (914) 377-6316

Larkin Sets Public Hearing on Con Ed Right-of-Way Tree Clearing
and Street Opening Repaving


(Yonkers, NY/ March 19, 2010)  Yonkers City Councilmember John Larkin (R-6th Dist.) is urging Yonkers residents to attend a fact finding meeting forThursday, March 25, 2010, to discuss the recent clearing of the Right-of-Way (ROW) along Con Ed’s transmission lines throughout Yonkers.  Additional discussion will focus on rules and regulations for street repaving as a follow-up to street openings conducted by the utility company.

Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone, state elected officials representing Yonkers, and representatives of Con Edison and the New York State Public Service Commission will be in attendance.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held Thursday, March 25, 2010, at 7:00 pm, at the Grinton I. Will Library, 1500 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10710   

“Discussion will center on the recent clearing of the ROW, Vegetative Management guidelines, the role of each representative in attendance, and suggestions for improving the process and better communications,” said Larkin, whose district has been impacted by ROW clearing and ConEdison’s M29 project that resulted in street openings throughout Yonkers. 


Just in! PSC's Response to County BOL re: Moratorium Resolution

Here is the PSC's response to the County BOL rejecting its recent Moratorium resolution (implied petition) to stop further Con Ed clear-cutting and to re-open the 2005 Case 04-E-0822 which was the order that directed Transmission Utilities to clear cut the entire width of the ROW.

Read the 3/17/10 letter for details, but it is sad to see the PSC respond in such an arrogant manner as to assert that there have been no significant lapses in or impacts due to Con Ed's handling of its vegetation management plan; and furthermore that the PSC guidelines themselves do not need reexamination or review.

PUBLIC Service Commission?

Petition to Public Service Commission

copy of email received today:

March 22, 2010

Madam Secretary [of NYPSC],

I, Amy M Kupferberg residing at 481 Ridge Road, Hartsdale Ny 10530, citizen of the United States of America, seek to petition the New York State Public Service Commission for a rehearing of Case 04-E-0822 issued and effective June 20, 2005.

The residents of Westchester County have felt the full affects of THE NEW YORK STATE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION’S “ENHANCED TRANSMISSION RIGHT OF WAY MANAGEMENT PRACTICE” and Con Edison's seemingly arbitrary and intermittent interpretation of their own Vegetation Management Plan. Although it is too late for the residents of my extended community, I ask that a stop order be placed on any further implementation of Con Edison’s clear cutting activities throughout the state.

These are the environmental impacts and the affects of the clear cutting behind my house.

*SCORCHED ECOSYSTEM
Loss of woodlands and natural habitat. Within the boundaries of my property, I was able to count 350 stumps behind my home. .A wide variety of species and sizes. The only tree that remains, fell onto state property and could not be removed.

*EROSION
Each spring as the ground warms and the ice melts a huge volume of water moves through our property and will no doubt cause flooding on the Sprain Brook Parkway behind my home.

*NOISE POLLUTION
The noise from the Spain Brook Parkway is so intrusive, I wear ear plugs at night. There is only one room in our house that one cannot hear the din of traffic through the Andersen double paned windows. Forget about opening the windows and enjoying fresh air! Over the past few days, as the weather warmed and the Motorcycles began to take the roadways, the jetting noise is maddening. The constant din can now be heard throughout the neighboring streets, as far as, the water tower on Birchwood Lane@Paret Lane, Hartsdale NY 10530.

*VISUAL POLLUTION
I have an almost unobstructed view of the 93,000.00 cars that pass by a day on the Sprain Brooke Parkway. As well as, 12 Transmission Towers from over 30 windows in my home. At night the headlights from the thousands of cars that pass behind my house provide a light show that can only be avoided by wearing a blindfold or installing window treatments and living in a fortress in lock down mode.

*PROPERTY DAMAGE
An increase of wind has also been significant because the natural wind barrier was clear cut. Insulation siding and roof shingles from my neighbors house have blown off their home and ended up in my yard. As well, 3 50 foot Hemlock trees have uprooted and fell onto my property. Significant tree loss and damage after the last two storms.12 trees fell between the two storms.

*QUALITY OF LIFE
As you can imagine, I have a huge amount of yard work ahead of me. We have always maintained this property ourselves. I go out everyday for 4 hours, cutting the felled trees and hauling the debris to the curb. Spending anytime outside on this 3.5 acre property that my family has owned for fifty years is a cruel reminder of the peace and quiet I once treasured and is now forever lost. I am either filled with rage or deep sadness. The only joy comes from the sounds of the dramatic influx of birds and other critters that have migrated onto our property now that their habitat has been removed.

*INCREASE IN ENERGY COSTS
Without the natural wind barrier that used to encircle and insulate our home, we will have a increase in energy costs during the winter months. BTW: here are my Con Ed bills for the last three months....Nov- $764.30,Dec-$1067.50, JAN $1019.58. Keep in mind only two heat zones activated and temperature set between 61-63 degrees. ONE PERSON LIVES IN THIS HOUSE. As well, now that the house can no longer be enjoyed with open windows and natural ventilation, we are considering putting in central air to cool the house in summer to make it more attractive to buyers.

*PROPERTY VALUES-30%
My father passed away 10 years ago, and our house is for sale. As difficult as it may have been to sell in this market, the recent clear cutting behind my home makes it almost impossible. Rather than being viewed as a beautiful country estate, this house is now described as "that big house that sits on the parkway."

I am sure that Con Ed and perhaps some State officials are believing that there would have been a greater number of outages had Con Ed not initiated their Vegetative Management Plan prior to our most recent storms. That may be more accurate with respect to distribution lines rather than transmission wires on the ROW. Moreover, in our immediate neighborhood where the clear cutting took place on the Catskill ROW and our natural wind barrier was removed, property owners took the brunt of the damage. As well, we were one of the last areas to have power restored.

My property suffered significant tree loss over the past two storms. 12 trees fell, some along the back wall where the trees had been topped and weakened by Con Edison’s “trimming” in prior years and subsequently died, but most fell away from the ROW because they could not withstand the full impact of the 90 mile an hour winds. Unfortunately for us 3/4 of the property boarders the ROW, so the wind force comes from all directions at once. Our fabulous Cherry tree that reigned in the field exploded into three parts. These trees matured according to the environment in which they grew, now that a significant part of the environment has been scorched, we are sitting ducks waiting for disaster.

In the aftermath of the storms, now is the perfect time to reevaluate where resources and attention should be paid. Perhaps new thought and careful analysis could be conducted to learn where outages happen the most and how to better respond to those emergencies.

My real property rights have been violated, and I appeal to the New York State Public Service Commission to protect my property and civil rights by rehearing Case 04-E-0822. I further ask that the New York Public Service Commission encourage an open hearing in which a civil discourse of unrepressed voices of the Residents of Westchester County and beyond be heard and considered when rehearing Case 04-E-0822. And finally, I ask that you support the Westchester County Board of Legislators RESOLUTION NO. 26 OF 2010 and other such Resolutions that have and will be presented in the future to the New York State Public Service Commission regarding Vegetation. Management.

I will be present at the meeting on March 25th and would take any opportunity to speak to the Commission directly or any other effort to encourage the Public Service Commission to cease implementation of Con Edison unnecessary clear cutting of our woodlands.

Most Respectfully,

Amy M Kupferberg
Hartsdale NY 10530

Report of Long Term Effects of Clear Cutting Along Sprain Parkway

an email received on 3/19/10:

Dear Sirs/Madams:

You probably know of us by now, either by name or by address. We are the Brackens, and we live on Ridge Road in Hartsdale, NY. Our property lays adjacent to the New York City DEP’s aqueduct and its Con Edison right-of-way (ROW). This portion of the ROW runs adjacent to the Sprain Brook Parkway.

In the wake of the fierce winter storms that we have endured over the last several weeks, the sun is shining brightly to warm us and remind us that Winter isn’t forever. The last few days were perfect for getting out for a walk, doing some yard work (to clean up the debris left behind by the storms), and opening windows to let the fresh air inside and rid our homes of the stale Winter air.. At our house, other then the walks, we're not going to be enjoying the outside OR enjoy being inside with open windows this Spring or Summer.

When Con Edison carelessly and unnecessarily clear cut the power transmission right-of-way behind our house, they removed every bit of protection we had from the Sprain Brook Parkway – protection from the noise, the pollution, the view, and the winds. They also removed our ability to enjoy our home – our quality of life – among other things, including the drastic decrease in property value. They removed trees that were very far away (at a safe distance) from the high voltage transmission lines. The vast majority of these trees and shrubs could never, in their lifetime, have posed a danger to the safe and reliable transmission of power along those high voltage lines. My husband has a degree is forestry from SUNY ESF, and we know this to be true.

When we bought this house ten years ago, the property was surrounded by woods in every direction and was our main reason for purchasing this home. We are nature lovers and felt confident in the protection of the woods, as we knew that land above an aqueduct cannot be developed. The highway sound, though audible, was a white noise from behind acres of trees which could not at all be heard behind closed windows or over outdoor conversation. Headlights on the highway could be seen only during the Winter as faint, flickering lights between the trees through only a small section of trees. We put our blood, sweat and tears into creating a haven for ourselves on our deck and in the beautiful yard outside our tiny home.

As a direct result of the clear-cutting, the highway noise now unendingly whooshes through our home – in every room and with the windows closed. We now see headlights from the highway from every single window – from all four sides of our home – for one entire mile. The lights fly across the ceilings at night and are very distracting in one’s peripheral vision while trying to concentrate on anything.

We don’t see any woods from our yard anymore. The ROW trees are gone. And, the large trees that stood on our property between us and our next door neighbor had grown tall with the wind protection that those woods provided. Many of them were destroyed during the first few winds of season, with their protection gone as a result of the clear cutting – not as a result of these last two storms.

Yesterday, I got home from a very long day at work after a very long week and was looking forward to eating an early dinner on my deck. As I got out of my car in my driveway, I realized that I had forgotten that this is not an option anymore. The loud highway noise is intolerable outside. In addition, the concept of sitting outside and breathing highway air filled with exhaust, with not a single leaf between us and the road pollution, is sickening and angering.

It’s a silly phenomenon that when the power is out, so many of us unconsciously flip light switches, open the refrigerator, and even attempt to put something in the microwave, forgetting that nothing will work. When we do this, we often laugh at ourselves at how we do these things without thinking about it – automatically. In the same way, over the last few beautiful days I have looked forward to being outside in my yard, as habit, only to be sadly reminded that there’s no enjoyment to be found there. I have opened a window, sadly and infuriatingly to be reminded that it’s too noisy to leave open.

For ten years, I have looked forward to our annual Easter family gathering, where we all sit outside before dinner if the day is nice, watching our nephews go on their egg hunt. I’m sure nobody will see the point this year. We really don’t want the children in our family (or anybody else’s) breathing the car exhaust directly from the highway. It’s too loud to have a conversation without raising one’s voice, and it’s ugly to see a mile of the highway unobstructed by the absolutely beautiful tree line to which we were all accustomed.

Again, this morning, as automatically as it’s been during every bright, warm morning, I sleepily opened my deck door to have my coffee outside. It was like being slapped in the face by noise. It’s no less noisy on our deck than it is on the shoulder of the highway. I came back inside angry and heartbroken that we have been put in this miserable living situation – not by some act of God, not by some necessary evil, but by an irresponsible and negligent act by a company that, with the alleged goal of doing something good for its customers, unnecessarily did something very, very bad.

Representatives from Con Edison have been working toward a replanting in some areas where the trees on the ROW protected homes from impacts of the highway. We have been told that there will be trees planted along the Department of Transportation’s right-of-way along the Sprain Brook Parkway behind our home. While this will help, and is appreciated, it is not enough. It will take more than a row or two of trees planted in one section of the ROW to replace the benefits that acres of woods have provided to our town, its residents, and its wildlife.

We demand that an effective and attractive sound and vision barrier be erected to correct this situation (dense plantings of trees with or without compliment of a wooden wall), as is done on other highways close to homes in this region. We need Con Edison, the NYS DOT, the PSC, our politicians, and everyone else who has power to help remediate this problem – not just for us, but for all of the residents who have been affected by this undue act of destruction of wildlife that served so many valuable purposes.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this matter.

Respectfully,
Kristina M. Bracken
Hartsdale, NY 10530

Thursday, March 18, 2010

GEF LORAX Working Group feedback on Senate Bill S-6825

Note: the Assembly version of this bill is A10003.

According to discussions with Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the bill is written to cover both transmission line and distribution line vegetation management activities; however, as there is no specific PSC-required Vegetation Management Policy for a utility's distribution lines, the implied reading is solely targeted at transmission lines. Clarification of reference may be needed (both transmission & distribution or transmission only). The discussion (which follows) assumes the context of Transmission Line vegetation management only.

There are several substantive issues / shortfalls with the bill, as follows:

1) The bill should more clearly state what the nature of the 60 day notification consists of. For example, is this advanced notification to each property owner (private or municipal) done via directed mailings or left door cards? Notifications should clearly spell out the scope and nature of the work specific to the property in question. Any notification should also have a contact phone or email by which to set up an on-site consultation with a qualified representative of the utility.

2) A written record of notification should be maintained indicating that the property owner has concurred with the plan. No work by utility or its contractor should occur without this proof. (Currently, for example, Con Ed's approved vegetation management policy is to attempt contact with homeowner twice - but if no contact is made, it appears that work may commence anyway. This is not acceptable.) Documentation of property owner contact and consent should be forwarded to both the PSC and the municipality before work starts.

3) Besides advanced notification, there must be a requirement to clearly survey & mark the boundaries of the ROW before any work commences.

4) All trees to be removed should also be clearly marked ahead of notification and review.

5) No enforcement mechanism is defined to ensure such advanced notice to property owners actually occurs. (Current regulations and vegetation management plans require notification now, but the results are spotty at best, as mentioned previously.) Who holds oversight for this? What can be done to ensure proper oversight occurs? What complaint process will exist for property owners?

6) The term "community meeting" (relating to the 30 day notification) needs to be better defined: What is a "community and where/when should meetings be held? Holding such meetings as a public session of the town council or village board makes sense.

7) What if at the community meeting (or at an on-site one-on-one meeting) folks don't agree to the work being proposed by the utility? There is no process for mediation or arbitration called out. (Why wouldn't the utilities position simply remain: "PSC is making us do this"??)

8) Mitigation requirements for impacts of vegetation management activities (such as clear-cutting the ROW) on homeowners and municipalities are not addressed.

9) The timing of notifications should be compatible with all remedies available to the property owner and municipality, such as petitioning the PSC.  Con Ed is working with a multi-year management cycle and can give notice months in advance of any work.

Further analysis:
Advanced notification, per se, does not begin to address the full range of issues concerning property value and/or environmental impacts experienced with the current policy of clear-cut line clearing work.

Public review of environmental concerns relating to planned development actions traditionally falls into the category of a SEQR Environmental Impact Statement - which is supposed to outline options by which to minimize and mitigate any undesirable environmental impacts. However, Con Ed (and the other Transmission Utilities) are not required to produce an EIS for transmission line work as their actions fall under a "master" SEQR finding by the Public Service Commission from 2004. (This original SEQR is quite possibly deceptive & illegal - having used a "short form" for a project estimated at over 190,000 acres. Furthermore, the "no environmental impact" box was checked on this short form.)

Thus, give the original "blanket" SEQR, there is currently no mechanism by which public input can be heard at a local level, nor can such input serve to induce a modification of utility plans or of the PSC- approved vegetation management policy.

The solution is not simply to require Con Ed (or other utilities) to hold public meetings for review of planned actions, but also they should be required to fully outline the environmental and property value impacts of proposed work and propose effective restoration / remediation / mitigation measures to be agreed upon by affected parties. (Yes, this is effectively a SEQR-like solution, but one in which the utilities are not given a "free pass" by the PSC.) So why not simply require a full SEQR EIA to be undertaken in this situation?? To make this EIA effective in responding to local conditions, the local municipality should be assigned as the "lead agency" for review purposes. An EAF (Environmental Assessment Form) would be required to be filled out by the utility and reviewed by the municipality. (Perhaps this could be given a specific framework and called an "utility vegetation management assessment form".)

A further necessary extension of this would be the need to define a (public) arbitration process by which acceptable mitigation can be reached - as it is certain that the utilities will want to do less than the affected property owners desire to have done. For the SEQR process now, the last resort now is filing an Article 78 action. This seems too extreme (cost-wise & time-wise) of a step to have to make simply to ensure the utility does not negatively impact your property or local environment. It puts the legal burden of environmental compliance back on the homeowner or the municipality - which is not where it should be, but rather on the utility! So an arbitration function outside of the courts needs to be defined.

Without including environmental review, mitigation requirements, and arbitration, the severe problems resulting from utility line management policy will continue throughout the state.

A printer-ready version of this analysis is available (.pdf).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Greenburgh Passes Clear Cut Moratorium Resolution


The Greenburgh Town Council unanimously passed the Con Ed Transmission Line Clear Cut Moratorium Resolution at a special Tuesday night session, March 16, 2010.

The resolution, mirroring that passed by the County Board of Legislators on March 1st, was originally developed by the LORAX working group.

Yonkers and Yorktown have also passed this resolution calling on the PSC to impose a temporary cessation of clear cutting along transmission lines while simultaneously re-opening its vegetation management (VM) guidelines from 2005 so that public review and feedback may occur. The goal is to define a more environmentally friendly "tiered" VM policy for transmission utilities across the state. Such a policy update would also need to consider aesthetic impacts, property value impacts and other concerns of our local communities - while providing a reasonable effort at mitigation (for example, DEC-compliant erosion control, view shed buffer re-planting).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Greenburgh to Vote on Moratorium Resolution Tonight - 7:45pm

from Town of Greenburgh web site:

Agenda for Special Meeting of the Greenburgh Town Board Tuesday, March 16, 2010

7:45 PM Roll Call: TOWN BOARD

TB 1 – 03/16/10 Resolution requesting Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. to cease implementation of the New York State Public Service Commission’s ”Enhanced Transmission Right of Way Management Practice” rules and further requesting that the New York State Public Service Commission rescind or undertake a review of same.

TB 2 – 03/16/10 Resolution requesting our federal elected representatives work with the Town of Greenburgh and appropriate agencies to seek any necessary regulatory changes needed to ensure banking regulations do not inhibit the Town of Greenburgh from requiring affordable housing resulting from the sale of Town property being maintained in perpetuity.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sample Letters of Support for Resolution

In order to get support for the enforcement by the PSC of the Clear Cut Moratorium resolution passed by the County BOL (and others), we need to effectively lobby at the state level. This can be done by contacting local state representatives (Senators and Assemblymen) and by contacting the various possible oversight offices within the executive Office of the Governor. Such contacts of import include:

Governor David A. Paterson - 518-474-8390
State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224
Email - via web form - http://161.11.121.121/govemail

Thomas Congdon, Deputy Secretary for Energy - 518-408-2552
Kimberly Harriman, Assistant Secretary for Energy - 518-408-2552
Peter Iwanowicz, Deputy Secretary for the Environment - 518-473-5442

All three can be written to at:
Office of the Secretary to the Governor
State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224

We also need to continue to gather support of our local politicians.

Here, for example, is a letter just written to my village Board of Trustees:

To Mayor Jon Siegel
Cc: Irvington Board of Trustees, Larry Schopfer March 14, 2010

I am writing about the Con Ed's transmission line clearing - so as to keep this issue in the public focus.

As of now, the Transmission Line Clear Cut Moratorium resolution (originally drafted by the GEF LORAX working group) has been passed by Yonkers, Yorktown and the county Board of Legislators. The town of Greenburgh is currently reviewing this resolution and the issue has been placed before the Village Officials Committee (formed by officials from the incorporated villages). I urge you to support the resolution for the greater community good!

It is important to clearly understand what this resolution is or is not about:

Firstly, the resolution in not about making Con Ed's maintenance of our local distribution lines more difficult. These are the power lines atop ubiquitous brown wooden poles which line our streets. In the latest snow and wind storms, power loss was mainly caused by failure of distribution lines due to falling trees and limbs. The solution? Bury the lines underground - or face the loss of our street trees one by one!

The Transmission Line Clear Cut Moratorium resolution is about transmission lines, not distribution lines. These are the high voltage feeds, seen strung along tall metal towers, that carry power from generating sources to regional substations. Con Ed operates such transmission lines in Westchester and Putnam Counties (as well as in NYC). Regional transmission lines have not had significant tree-induced outages for a number of years (since the 2003 Northeast blackout that started in Ohio).

The Moratorium resolution calls for a temporary cessation of indiscriminant clear cutting of trees along the transmission right-of-ways (the land corridors over which the towers run). One has only to view the areas along Sprain Road and Underhill Road in Greenburgh to see the devastating environmental impact of said clear cut activity.

This temporary moratorium excludes any emergency action such as removal of imminent "danger trees" deemed necessary for the safe operations of the lines.

The second part of the Moratorium resolution calls upon the Public Service Commission (PSC - which oversees transmission lines State-wide) to review its 2005 guidelines requiring clear cutting of all vegetation, not just under the wires, but across the entire width of the ROW - regardless of specific topographical features or resulting environmental and property value impacts. Any such review should and must occur with full public and scientific input and concurrence.

Please send of letter of concern to the PSC and to the Governor's offices of Energy and the Environment to let them know our village fully supports the goals of this resolution.

Thank you for your consideration,

Mark Gilliland
Chair, Greenburgh Environmental Forum LORAX working group
Chair, Irvington Tree Commission
Irvington Environmental Conservation Board
Irvington Re-Leaf


A version (Word .doc file) of this letter is linked here for readers to make use of in contacting their own local representatives.

Another version (Word .doc file) of the letter can be used as a Letter to the Editor - in this case, the Journal News. Contacting your local news media can be just as effective as contacting local politicians.

Thanks for your support and lobbying efforts!

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Public Notification Handouts from Con Ed

The following 2 documents are being handed out in the Yorktown area as Con Ed commences new clear cutting (vegetation management).

Door Flyer - note that Dan Lyons (Con Ed PR) is the contact person on this card.

Information Handout - Read the Q&A section and you will see that in actual practice,  Con Ed does not follow this latest version of their VM procedures - especially regarding selective removals in the border zone and installation & maintenance of erosion control practices.


Note finally, the changes in their ROW pruning visual guide (above) which now shows an example of "mal-pruning" on the left edge of the ROW. Also, only small shrubs and trees are illustrated as desirable species in the Border Zone, regardless of air clearances to wire swing/sag zones.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

White Paper on the Moratorium Goals & Background History

A newly completed white paper in a Q&A format can be downloaded here (as a pdf file). This documents issues relating to the PSC's vegetation management policy which has lead to Con Ed's clear cutting throughout Westchester County (and soon into Putnam County). It also includes a discussion of the LORAX working group's goals in bringing these matters to the forefront of public debate.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

From the Journal News: PSC takes heat over tree cutting, Entergy spin off

The March 5th issue of The Journal News carried this article:

by Greg Clary - Journal News columnist

The Public Service Commission may do its work in Albany, but make no mistake — its decisions ripple through the Hudson Valley.

Take for instance two issues that are pretty contentious down here: Con Edison's tree-cutting and Indian Point's future.

On the first, the five members of the board — appointed by the governor to staggered six-year terms — decided in 2005 to let utility chain saws loose in backyards across the state.

The decision was made in the wake of the 2003 blackout that left the Northeast without power and started when two trees hit high-voltage power lines in Ohio.

Those regulation changes, designed to protect reliability, have left residents near local transmission lines crying foul because of what they call a "scorched Earth" cutting policy that doesn't consider anything other than delivering electricity.

"There are a lot of ways to do their role," said Mark Gilliland, a Greenburgh activist. "But they can't do it supremely. They have to work in concert with the communities they serve. They don't exist without the communities they serve."

Gilliland said there's no disagreement on wanting reliable electricity — he just doesn't want PSC to stand for Power Service Commission.

"Sure we want power and we want it secure, but there are limits," he said. "In the end, we are all facing the trickle down costs from the implementation of their regulations."

Residents are left with things like backyard flooding, topsoil erosion, loss of property value and aesthetics, not to mention tree debris, stumps and sawdust.

PSC spokesman Jim Denn said the commission got an update yesterday on the recent outages from the snowstorm and will have final reports from each utility within 60 days.

"We always look at an event like this as an opportunity to re-examine the current utility specifications to determine if they are still appropriate," Denn wrote in an e-mail to the Journal News. Earlier he wrote that "The Commission recognizes and appreciates the value of trees, but that value must weighed against the need to ensure electricity flows to homes and businesses.

He said the commission has not yet made any decisions on this.

The PSC also postponed a decision yesterday on the second matter close to the hearts of Hudson Valley residents — Indian Point.

Certainly proponents of the plant are happy the PSC didn't rule on whether Entergy, the nuclear plant's parent company, should be able to spin off three New York plants into an all-nuclear separate company that would include other company plants in the Northeast and Michigan.

Entergy just took a beating from the state of Vermont on its plant there, and the future of that site is cloudy at best.

At the eleventh hour Tuesday night, the company submitted changes to its plans for the spin-off company, to be called Enexus Energy Corp., and included more financial guarantees that may allay some PSC concerns about longterm viability.

At the heart of this matter is a challenge, led by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, that is best summarized by his office's submission to the PSC last month:

"Entergy seeks to spin off several aging nuclear power plants to a new and debt-laded corporation whose only assets would be the plants themselves. Not only would this new corporation be heavily indebted, it would be unique; no other corporation is exclusively built around aging nuclear reactors that operate in a 'merchant' (i.e., non-utility) power system."

The question becomes whether the PSC going forward might earn the nickname "Political Service Commission," as Cuomo is challenging Indian Point's application to extend its operating license an extra 20 years even as he weighs a decision to run for New York's governorship — with the attendant right to appoint new PSC members.

Things get curiouser and curiouser.

Stay tuned — the PSC could rule on the Entergy question as early as March 25.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mar. 4 NYSPSC Webcast Includes Discussion of Power Outage Response & Rate Case

At a special meeting on Thurs., Mar. 4, the NYS Public Service Commission received a briefing from NYS Dep't. of Public Service (NYSDPS) representatives on the power outages and response to last week's storm. The entire meeting can be viewed at the following website:
http://www.dps.state.ny.us/webcast_sessions.htm [scroll down to Mar. 4 special session - part 1]

Regarding the power outages, the presentation and discussion is mostly general and applicable to numerous utilities regarding level of outages, response, etc. Note, vegetation management (VM) was briefly mentioned by staff & commissioners at several points. For example, cue webcast to 07:55; 21:11; 26:04; 26:23.

The webcast also included an update on status of the Con Edison emergency response and management audits ordered by NYSPSC. Begins at 46:58. VM cycle mentioned at 50:06.

Discussion on Con Edison's rate case begins at 1:02:52 and lasts for about an hour.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Legislator Kaplowitz Letter to NYSPSC & Con Edison

Read the letter to Con Ed and the PSC written by Legislator Kaplowitz urging an immediate implementation of the moratorium to prevent further clear cut activities in the Yorktown area.

Read the official signed version of the Westchester County BOL Moratorium resolution.

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.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yorktown Town Board passes the Con Edison clear cutting moratorium resolution

In a vote of 3-2 , the Yorktown Town Board this evening passed the Con Edison clear cutting moratorium resolution. Thanks to LORAX member Patricia Podolak for her efforts and to County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz who spoke before the town board urging the full town board to support the moratorium resolution.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Westchester BOL Passes Transmission Line Clear Cut Moratorium Resolution!

Tonight, the Westchester Board of Legislators passed the LORAX-originated Moratorium resolution by a vote of 15-0! Special thanks goes to Legislator Abinati and the chairs of the Energy and Environment committees, as well as to Committee Counsel Chris Crane. Thanks also to LORAX members Patricia Podolak and Marvin Baum, and to friends of the working group including Amy Kupferberg who showed up tonight to speak to the legislators.

Read the red-lined resolution or the final approved version.

Here is the text of the statement which I gave at the meeting during the public comment period:

My name is Mark Gilliland and I live in Irvington, NY. I am the Chairperson of the Greenburgh Environmental Forum's LORAX working group - which originated the resolution before this body tonight concerning a moratorium on the transmission line right-of-way clear cutting of our trees.

Once a moratorium "time out" is in place, we have an opportunity to find a solution to current indiscriminate clear cutting - through dialog with the Public Service Commission (PSC), Con Edison and other Transmission Line Operators (such as NYSEG and O&R), as well as concerned municipal officials and the public-at-large.

This resolution further calls for the PSC to re-examine and update its 2005 guidelines for vegetation management. This time around, the required Environmental Impact Analysis must be undertaken in a fully transparent manner with both public and scientific input.

The LORAX working group is eager to work with the PSC and with Con Ed in creation of these new, environmentally-friendly and property-friendly guidelines. 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 line clearings.

2) Public review and update of the original PSC 2004 SEQR filing to include a full environmental impact statement complete with alternatives and proposed mitigations.

3) Modernization of Vegetative Management guidelines for the transmission line right-of-way (ROW) to encompass the new draft federal standard FAC-003-2, allowing for a wire-zone / border-zone "tiered management" approach based upon distance from the transmission line centerline.

4) Advanced notification by utilities for all targeted property owners (private and municipal), including on-site consultations and written descriptions of proposed pruning and removals.

5) Improved training, supervision and QA of line clearing contractors.

In order to help start these important discussions with the PSC, I urge the Board of Legislators to pass the moratorium resolution tonight. Thank-you.





To watch streaming video of last night's BOL meeting, go to the BOL website. Then click on icon at right titled "Board Video" and find the MARCH 1 video in the archive list.