Tree trimming bill passes committee


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Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space giving utilities control over the removal of dangerous vegetation near power lines was approved by the Appropriations Committee.

“We can prevent costly, inconvenient and potentially life-threatening power outages with preventive maintenance on tree limbs,” said Wirths (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris). “Pruning trees keep them from interfering with power lines, and allows utility companies to do what’s necessary to keep the lights on. Bureaucrats shouldn’t be tying their hands.”

Downed trees are responsible for most storm-related blackouts, but local shade-tree commissions often resist electric companies trimming trees and vegetation that threaten power lines.

“Extended power outages jeopardize the safety of the elderly, families with small children, and people with disabilities or illness,” said Space. “As an outdoorsman, I appreciate trees, but when power lines are threatened, we have to prune them. Some residents endured two weeks without power after the last big storm. That is unacceptable.”

More than 155,000 trees fell during the 2011 Halloween storm and Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, resulting in massive power outages. BPU attributed most downed power lines to toppled trees and falling branches.

Back-to-back nor’easters in March caused prolonged outages impacting nearly 660,000 residents. Again, trees and branches were cited at the culprit for bringing down power lines. Some customers were without power for weeks.

Wirths and Space’s bill was supported by the Assembly Telecommunications Committee by a vote of 6-0 in September. The identical Senate legislation is sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho.



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