CFE praises passage of tree-trimming bill

May 7th, 2014 | By | Category: General

Connecticut Fund for the Environment praised the passage of House Bill 5408 regarding tree-trimming and removal by Connecticut utilities. The legislation addresses concerns of state residents and environmental groups that CL&P’s and UI’s plans were too rigid and aggressive in their approach, to remove all tall-growing tree species within eight feet of power lines, instead of focusing on the “hazardous trees” most likely to fall.

The bill requires explicit written permission for trimming or removal trees entirely on private property, establishes a dedicated email address and a mediating body to make it simple for residents to object to trimming of trees abutting their property, and allows for stump grinding and tree replacement.

“This legislation will protect residents’ property rights and make it easier for them to speak up and protect public trees in their neighborhoods,” said Zachary Bestor, legal fellow at CFE. “We understand the need to balance keeping the lights on and protecting trees that clean our air and make our communities pleasant places to live, and this bill is a good start. We had hoped for more explicit protections for healthy trees, and without them, the public will need to remain vigilant in objecting to inappropriate tree cutting. We’re looking forward to PURA’s decision and to continued conversations with tree wardens and communities around the state.”

The legislation clarifies the process by which residents and town tree wardens will be notified of upcoming tree work and be able to object, request modifications, or consent to the proposed tree trimming or removal on their properties. Individuals will not be financially responsible if a tree on their property falls on wires. Rather than the burden being placed on the property owner, the utilities will bear the burden of proving that “public convenience and necessity” require the proposed trimming.

The bill allows PURA to require the removal of a stump or replanting of a replacement tree if that is the sticking point in an objection or appeal, and the utility will be able to recover the cost in their rates.

The bill also creates an ongoing role for DEEP Forestry in reviewing the tree trimming policies of utilities, pending the upcoming decision by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA).

House Bill 5408 will now head to the Governor’s desk.

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