IURC Tree Trimming Order (Part 2)

Here are some of the key comments and statements contained in the Order:

“…we find that vegetation management plays a key role in keeping lines and facilities clear of trees and brush, and helps to reduce the number of service interruptions to Indiana consumers. We find Respondents understand and have incorporated this goal into their respective VMPs. We further find that utilities must be able to respond quickly to vegetation issues before they turn into reliability problems and that utilities must not be unreasonably delayed in performing vegetation management work by burdensome regulations or a lack of access to their facilities.” (page 95)

“Accordingly, the record evidence shows that vegetation management is vital to ensuring the safety of utility employees, consumers and citizens and we find that the Respondents understand and have incorporated this goal into their respective VMPs.” (page 96)

“The record also makes clear that tree trimming is not a one-size-fits-all process. It is based on the sciences of arboriculture and electrical engineering and practiced by the judgment of experienced workers as to how and where to make the best cuts that will protect reliable service, protect public safety, promote tree health and provide a reasonable trim cycle. We now address the elements of the proposed uniform vegetation standards.” (page 96)

“As the OUCC stated, it is more important to ensure the health of the trees and maintain the integrity of power lines than it is to preserve the aesthetic qualities of a plant.” (page 97)

“We find that a suggestion to ban various types of cuts would be contrary to the industry guidelines and standards followed by Respondents and should accordingly be rejected.” (page 97)

“Thus, on a case-by-case basis, utilities need to retain the discretion to conduct vegetation management in a manner that protects the reliable provision of service and gives due consideration to the health and characteristics of each tree, while considering reasonable input of the property owner and adhering to ANSI A300 guidelines. … However, we do find merit in the concerns that ANSI A300 provides more discretion than “standard,” and the extent to which the utilities are following the trimming standards. … we must carefully balance the interests of the property owner with those of the utilities, in order to maintain the utilities’ ability to provide safe and reliable electric service. … Accordingly, we direct Respondents to apply and adhere to the guidelines of ANSI A300, NESC, the Shigo Guide, and ISA Best Management Practices in the conduct of their vegetation management in a manner that promotes safe and reliable service and tree health, absent one of the following: consent by the property owner, during an emergency, in the interest of safety, or in the interest of preserving the life of the tree.” (page 98)

(Part 2 of 4. Part 3 will be posted on 1/10/11. Order will be attached to Part 4.)

The statements contained herein are for information purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice and should not be construed to form an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions regarding this article, please contact an attorney.