Bill to minimize power outages clears committee


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An Assembly committee voted to prevent bureaucrats from interfering with utility companies trying to trim trees that have compromised power lines during recent major storms. Sponsored by Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris), the bill was approved today by the Assembly Telecommunications Committee 6-0.

“Utility companies understand that pruning trees keeps them from interfering with power lines,” said Wirths. “It’s a preventative measure they take to help reduce the chance of outages during storms. Bureaucrats shouldn’t be tying their hands. Utilities need to be able to do what’s necessary to keep the power flowing.”

Downed trees are responsible for most storm-related blackouts, but local shade tree commissions frequently block electric company efforts to prune trees and vegetation that endanger transmission lines.

Wirths and Space’s bill prevents the state Community Forestry Council and shade tree commissions from interfering with utility work to secure and maintain the lines.

“I like trees, but not when your lights are out for two weeks,” said Space. “We need to decide which is more important — aesthetically looking trees or helping prevent extended power outages that can be life threatening to the elderly, families with small children and people with disabilities or illnesses. Trees that threaten transmission lines must be cleared.”

More than 155,000 trees fell during the 2011 Halloween storm and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, resulting in massive power outages. BPU attributed most of the downed power lines to toppled tree and falling branches. The state also experienced prolonged outages nearly 660,000 residents when it was hit by a series of back to back nor’easters in March. Again, trees and branches were cited at the culprit for bringing down power lines. Some customers did not have power restored for nearly two weeks.

The identical Senate legislation, S-2505, is sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris).



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