PURA: PURA Calls for Suspension of Enhanced Tree Trimming

March 11, 2014
PURA Calls for Suspension of Enhanced Tree Trimming
Connecticut's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) today requested that tree trimming efforts by the Connecticut Light & Power Company (CL&P) and the United Illuminating Company (UI) temporarily be scaled back following public opposition and concerns raised regarding the plans.
Based on its review of information and testimony recently submitted by UI and CL&P, as well as elected officials and ratepayers, PURA today directed that CL&P and UI voluntarily curtail "enhanced" tree trimming programs, including removal of entire trees, pending a final ruling in its proceeding.
The PURA initiated its investigation as part of Governor Dannel P. Malloy's multi-pronged storm disaster preparedness and recovery initiatives. In this proceeding, the PURA sought to expand its evidentiary record to assess and address Connecticut utility companiesí tree trimming plans to prevent excessive weather-related infrastructure damage.
In recent weeks, many individuals including property owners, tree wardens, environmental advocates, elected officials, and members of the Governorís Vegetation Management Task Force have written to PURA or offered testimony opposing the tree trimming activities underway and scheduled in parts of the state. Technical meetings and public comment sessions held last week drew strong public input, particularly at the evening public comment hearing held last Thursday at Hamden Middle School.
In its ruling today, the PURA directs CL&P and UI to respond in writing to the suspension request within three business days. The ruling does not seek a suspension of routine vegetation management activities.
PURA Chairman Arthur H. House stated "We need a time out to balance competing needs. One - as established by law - is Connecticutís demonstrated need for more aggressive tree trimming to secure the reliability of vital utility services. The second need, especially articulated by communities in the New Haven and Hamden areas, is to avoid unnecessary eradication of trees and instead proceed with selective trimming."
Vice-Chairman John W. Betkoski, III, who is the lead commissioner on the case, added that "Changes made to state law in 2013 provide that a utility may perform vegetation management within the utility protection zone to secure reliability, and the utilities have proceeded to fulfill their responsibilities under this law. In this proceeding, PURA is addressing the parameters of the word "may" to ensure appropriate balance between service reliability and retention of healthy trees wherever possible. Until we complete our assessment, the PURA calls upon the utilities to suspend complete eradication of trees not sanctioned by local tree wardens and to continue with ongoing programs of therapeutic trimming."
The PURA has also announced a technical meeting with stakeholders to be held at PURA's New Britain offices on March 27, 2014, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The purpose of the technical meeting is to further review the CL&P/UI Vegetation Management Plans, including coordination of future projects with local officials, and how the process may be improved.
Customers may speak on the record at any of the PURA hearings in this matter, or may file written comments with the PURA by writing to:
Executive Secretary
Public Utilities Regulatory Authority
10 Franklin Square
New Britain, CT 06051
Comments may also be submitted to the PURA via e-mail addressed to PURA.ExecutiveSecretary@ct.gov. Filers should reference PURA Docket No. 12-01-10, PURA Investigation into the Tree Trimming Practices of Connecticut's Utility Companies, in any written correspondence.