Tree trimming bill passes Assembly

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The Assembly gave its approval today to legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space giving utilities control over the removal of vegetation dangerously close to power lines.

“Utility companies need to do what’s necessary to keep the power on, and a big part of that is pruning tree limbs,” said Wirths. “Preventative maintenance keeps branches from interfering with power lines which, in turn, helps prevent costly, inconvenient and potentially life-threatening power outages.”

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.

“Utility companies aren’t looking to destroy trees,” said Space (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris), an outdoorsman. “But they need to be able to trim branches to keep the power flowing without interference from bureaucrats. This is a public safety matter. We had some residents who didn’t have power for two weeks 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.

The Senate passed a companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Steven Oroho (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris), in October. It now goes to the governor for his consideration.

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