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

Contact:           Mark Gilliland                                    
                        GEF LORAX Working Group
                        c/o Greenburgh Nature Center                                   
                        99 Dromore Rd
Scarsdale, NY 10583                                                
                        (914) 714-3056                                                                     

May 25, 2010


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.

LORAX letter of Support for Vegetation Management Notification BIll

Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
805 Legislative Office Bldg.
Albany, NY 12247 May 24, 2010

Dear Senator Stewart-Cousins,

The GEF LORAX Working Group fully supports the goals of Senate Bill S-6825 (Assembly Bill A-10003) and urges that this important piece of protective legislation be released from Committee to allow for a full chamber vote.

The bill’s requirement for a general notification of all potentially affected property owners (private and or municipal) 60 days before the commencement of any vegetation management activity provides a good baseline to ensure timely disclosure.

The bill’s further requirement for a public hearing 30 days prior to any vegetation management program commencement ensures that Con Edison and the other state electric utilities will be more transparent concerning the true scope of planned vegetative management work. Since Con Edison (as well as the other utilities) commonly use sub-contractors to do vegetation management, the legal record / transcript of a public hearing helps to ensure that communities and individual property owners are protected from a utility’s or sub-contractor’s failure to comply with the work order as described.

Critical to the success of any such notification legislation will be the specific regulatory details of the notification process as developed by the Public Service Commission and as applied to each state electric utility, including: notification methodology, notification retry requirements, provision of a full description of intended work, property owner notification sign-off, and scope-of-work / mitigation arbitration for handling disagreements.

The PSC’s directive, PSC 04-E-0822, appears to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to vegetation management throughout the State, and has not taken into consideration the differences in approach that are needed in the more densely populated suburban areas, as opposed to measures used in rural areas. Public meetings concerning planned vegetation management will give a much needed forum to voice the community’s commitment to the environment and its concerns about the impacts of climate change, habitat destruction and property value loss.

As part of the Greenburgh Environmental Forum (GEF), the LORAX Working Group is committed to educating the public about the complex issues surrounding both transmission line and distribution line vegetation management, as well as finding legislative and procedural solutions to these issues. The LORAX group looks forward to working with you and your staff to ensure that the "Notification Bill" S-6825 is passed quickly in Albany. Please let us know how we can best support your efforts to expedite the changes we urgently need.


Mark Gilliland (Chairperson, LORAX Working Group)
85 Harriman Road
Irvington, NY 10533

Cc: Anne Jaffe-Holmes, LORAX WG

Read the Westchester County BOL's letter of support for the notification bill (pdf).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Presentation: Transmission Line Vegetation Management Policy & The PSC Case Review

UPDATED: download a copy of the presentation as a pdf file.

The talk, titled "Transmission Line Clearing: Who’s in Charge?", will be given by Mark Gilliland of the LORAX working group tonight at Teatown Reservation from 7:30pm till 9:30pm, including discussion and Q&A.

Teatown Lake Reservation
1600 Spring Valley Road
Ossining, NY 10562
Tel: 914.762.2912


View Mark Gilliland's Powerpoint presentation online.

PSC Case Matter Files for Case 04-E-0822 & Case 10-E-0155

Case 04-E-0822

Case 10-E-0155

Friday, May 14, 2010

Electricity Transmission Systems in Westchester County

Google Map of Con Ed's 384kV transmission lines along Catskill Aqueduct and other rights-of-way in Westchester.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Right Tree, Right Place: Small Tree Demonstration Planting at Greenburgh Public Library

On Friday, May 14, 2010, the Town of Greenburgh and Consolidated Edison Company of New York will be showcasing a demonstration program for planting trees near overhead power lines at the Greenburgh Public Library from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, as part of the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Right Tree, Right Place” and “Tree Line USA” programs.

The Arbor Day Foundation believes that a healthy community forest begins with careful planning. The Arbor Day Foundation’s “Right Tree, Right Place” program helps educate the public about proper landscaping techniques. The proper placement of trees will increase your property value and help to avoid conflicts with power lines, roadways and buildings.

A proper landscape plan takes into consideration such things as the height the tree will grow, its form or shape at maturity, the growth rate of the tree and the soil, sun and moisture requirements to maintain a healthy tree on your property.

The planting program will provide examples of trees that rarely exceed 25 feet in height at maturity, and therefore do not interfere with overhead utility lines. Such trees require little trimming, if any, to keep their branches clear from the lines. The plantings will be located along Tarrytown Road, at the corner of Knollwood Road. Public parking for this event is available in the Library parking lot.

As per the Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree Line USA” program, it is best not to plant directly under power lines at all, but if necessary, trees planted as part of this program are recommended for planting under, or in close proximity to, overhead power lines. Offsetting the trees is better than planting them directly under the lines. Other trees, shrubs, and flowers are also compatible with planting in close proximity to overhead utility lines. When selecting a plant, keep its mature size in mind. Con Edison will be distributing educational material to everyone attending.

Aaron Schmidt, Greenburgh Forestry Officer, stated “That this program will help local residents learn which trees are suitable for planting near power lines. By educating the public, we can begin planning and planting the next generation of appropriate street trees.”

Supervisor Paul Feiner stated “That the Town is excited to be chosen by Con Edison for this demonstration program. These trees will compliment the educational component of the Library and will be an excellent resource for the community to help guide residents in choosing the right trees to plant on their property.”

If you have any questions, please feel free to call Aaron Schmidt, Forestry Officer, Department of Community Development and Conservation, Town of Greenburgh at 993-1511, or email at aschmidt@greenburghny.com.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Con Ed Mitigation Begins Along the Sprain

From Amy K. who lives nearby:

They began planting last Thursday.

They promised 30-50 trees total. 16 ft white pines and 10ft firs. 2-3 staggered rows. It looks like they planted them properly and I saw a water truck today. I have to be hopeful, although it doesn't really shield the views at this point. Luckily that area is usually moist so again, I have to be hopeful.

For more pictures become a fan on facebook Keep Greenburgh Green or the blog site.

Senator Stewart-Cousins Speaks About Con Ed and Clear Cutting In Westchester

Senator Stewart Cousins talks about the latest in the Con Edison "vegetative management" program along a main power line that runs through the her district. Residents have been upset with the matter the utility company has gone about clear cutting trees. The Senator has been very active on this issue and she has even introduced legislation to make things more fair. She discusses the goals of the legislation, as well.

View the video as presented on her Senate page.

LORAX Comments on FERC 110kV "Bulk Line" Proposal

Hot off the press from Marvin Baum, utility analyst with the LORAX Working Group - our response to the proposal by FERC to include all lines 100kV and above into the "bulk" category.

This is a large PDF (7.6Mb) so it will take a bit of time - patience!

Friday, May 7, 2010

FERC, NERC, ERO, PSC and VM - FAQ on how everything ties together

Here is a surprisingly clear explanation of who controls what when it comes to the question concerning the alphabet soup of regulations for vegetation management on transmission lines or distribution lines.

Download the FAQ: FERC-vm-faq.pdf