Thursday, July 14, 2011

Are Guidelines updated in Case 10-E-0155 Being Ignored??

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NYS PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION’S NEW VEGETATION MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES PUT TO THE TEST

Are Guidelines updated in Case 10-E-0155 Being Ignored??

GREENBURGH, NEW YORK – The GEF LORAX Working Group applauds the New York Public Service Commission’s (PSC) re-examination of its 2005 policy and guidelines for vegetation management along high voltage transmission line Rights-of-Way (ROWs). This review, known as Case 10-E-0155, has resulted in updated guidelines, effective July 2011, for management plans of Con Edison, O&R and other transmission utilities statewide. More information about this can be found on the LORAX blog: http://loraxwg.blogspot.com/2011/05/published-order-for-case-10-e-0155.html.

An important element of the new guidelines is the use of what is termed a modified "tiered" vegetation management approach - which states that vegetation which could never grow into the wire protection zone should be left standing in the ROWs, rather than the utility simply undertaking unconstrained clear cutting, thus helping to maintain visual/noise buffers in many instances. The outcome of tiered management should be better vegetation management decisions based upon actual site conditions, not “one-size-fits-all.”

In addition, the new guidelines introduce the notion of “high density” ROWs such as those found throughout Westchester, Rockland and parts of Orange County. These suburban areas with dense populations of homeowners along the ROW will now be required to have special transmission vegetation management plans (TVMPs) defined specifically for them in order to reduce negative environmental and property value impacts.
However, it has come to LORAX’s attention that Con Edison is effectively ignoring these new guidelines. Numerous complaints from homeowners and property owners along the Catskill Aqueduct transmission corridor in Westchester County, previously impacted in 2009 by the clear cutting of all vegetation across the width of the ROW, have been received concerning Con Edison personnel stating that they intend to “complete the cycle” of vegetation management (without further landowner notification) as previously approved until completion of work sometime in 2012. The work outlined involves going back into the ROW and cutting down any re-sprouting trees, thence applying herbicides to the stumps and to other undesirable vegetation which may have emerged. The work will be done across the entire ROW (up to 130 feet on either side of the transmission line) regardless of terrain or vegetative buffer needs of residents. This work cycle will begin in Yonkers and travel up the ROW into northern Westchester. Work will commence in the Sprain Road area soon.

None of the new PSC guideline requirements are being addressed by Con Edison. A field supervisor stated during an on-site meeting with a resident that there was no need to define “high density” plans for this area. Furthermore, there was no intention of saving any re-spouting trees to help restore natural, native buffers to reduce noise and views of the nearby Sprain Parkway.

The GEF LORAX Working Group believes that it is imperative for the PCS to demonstrate a commitment to the new guidelines by having Department of Public Service (DPS) utility regulators work through the pertinent details of the new requirements with Con Edison, and thence ensure Con Edison implements said adjustments to it’s ongoing TVMP immediately, not sometime after 2012.

LORAX has just released an analysis of the 2011 PSC guidelines which outlines “missing” regulations, loopholes, and other areas of procedural concern which should be addressed immediately by the PSC or by the state legislature in order to ensure a better balance of environmental, health and property value concerns with that of provision of safe, reliable electric power. Several of these outlined issues are already being brought to the forefront by the current actions of Con Edison (described above). The LORAX analysis can be found at: http://loraxwg.blogspot.com/2011/06/gef-analysis-of-psc-case-10-e-0155.html.

  
If you are a resident, landowner or municipal official who is experiencing similar difficulties or have concerns with ongoing transmission line vegetation management, you can submit complaints to the PSC (via phone, fax, website, mail or email): http://www.dps.state.ny.us/complaints.html

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

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