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.
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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.