Down here in our little corner of Connecticut, we don’t always pay attention to Hartford. But decisions in the state capital can have big effects on us — for better or worse.
Earlier this month, Connecticut Light & Power participated in a public hearing in New Britain. The subject was tree trimming. It’s an important subject, following weather events like hurricanes and snowstorms that caused widespread power outages.
Under the utility company’s “Enhanced Tree Trimming” plan, it would trim or remove trees — including healthy ones — that could fall on their poles or wires. Trees on private property were included, within 8 feet of power lines.
Not many Fairfield County residents trekked up to New Britain. But plenty of citizens throughout the state spoke up. They were not pleased with CL&P’s plan.
Citing environmental and property rights concerns, the speakers vehemently opposed the CL&P plan (and a similar one proposed by United Illuminating).
Speakers (and those sending written comments) noted there was no commitment to plant lower-growing trees to replace healthy ones that had been cut down. Nor was there any plan to grind tree stumps, or remove potential tripping hazards.
Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority took note. On Tuesday, the agency asked CL&P to voluntarily curtail its “Enhanced” program, pending a final ruling.
“We need a timeout to balance competing needs,” said PURA chairman Arthur H. House.
“One — as established by law — is Connecticut’s demonstrated need for more aggressive tree trimming to secure the reliability of vital utility services. The 2nd need … is to avoid unnecessary eradication of trees and instead proceed with selective trimming.”
CL&P said it would “of course comply” with the request to cut back the tree cutting.
On Thursday, though, the utility told PURA it has 65 local tree crews, with 170 employees, currently trimming trees. CL&P is concerned that a suspension of the program may cause contractors to leave the state, “adversely impacting the Company’s ability to respond to a major weather event.”
Late Friday, PURA allowed CL&P to continue its tree work.
In related news, this weekend marks the 4th anniversary of a windstorm that knocked out power to thousands of Westporters — some for over a week.