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.


---

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

---

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.

--

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]."