Saturday, February 25, 2012

HB 3884 has potentially disastrous environmental consequences

I just learned about a bill that is scheduled for hearing before the IL House Public Utilities Committee on 2/28/12 - this Tuesday.

Help protect our trees! Illinois House Bill 3884 (Utility Damage Prevention Act) says that trees/vegetation planted within 20 feet of an electric utility pole or overhead electrical conductor could be removed. If this bill passes, many of our beautiful mature trees could be in jeopardy.

The presumed goal of this bill - preventing power outages due to tree damage - makes sense.  However, this is a heavy-handed way of going about it, which could have many disastrous consequences for our environment.

The bill, as proposed, could authorize the removal of most existing trees in many of our back yards, potentially many thousands of mature trees.  Removal of these trees would reduce the ability of our ecosystem to absorb heavy rains, increasing flooding; increase the urban heat island effect; destroy habitat for many wildlife species; remove shade from many yards and houses; greatly increase summer air conditioning costs; and result in a significant increase in air pollution from power plants created by the additional demand for electricity.   

It is possible to maintain trees in such a way as to minimize risk to utility lines and poles.  Our trees should not be condemned when there are workable alternatives.

Please contact your State Representative to ask for these amendments to the bill:
1. a specific definition of "20 feet" regarding the proximity of planted vegetation to utility poles or overhead conductors;
2. a requirement for utilities to consider specific impacts before removing trees;
3. a requirement that utilities give any affected property owners 30 days written notice of any potential tree removal, with contact information to work out a compromise plan; and
4. a requirement that utilities should pay for replacement trees.

Urge representatives to amend HB 3884 or oppose it if it is not changed.

Here's more info on the bill as proposed:
Synopsis As Introduced: Creates the Overhead Utility Facilities Damage Prevention Act. Provides that it shall be unlawful for any person to plant restricted vegetation within 20 feet of an electric utility pole or overhead electrical conductor located within the State. Provides that any restricted vegetation planted, whether by a person or by natural means, within 20 feet of an electric utility pole or overhead electrical conductor located within the State shall be subject to removal. Provides that any person who sells restricted vegetation within this State shall affix a label to each piece of restricted vegetation identifying it as restricted vegetation. Permits the Illinois Commerce Commission to adopt rules concerning the removal of restricted vegetation. Provides that it shall be unlawful for any person to interfere with an electric utility while performing vegetation management and removal activities. Also creates provisions concerning findings, definitions, and Commission enforcement. Effective immediately. 

House Sponsors: Rep. Jack D. Franks
Hearings: Public Utilities Committee Hearing Feb 28 2012 3:30PM Capitol Building Room 114 Springfield, IL
Last Action Date: Chamber Action 1/24/2012 House Assigned to Public Utilities Committee
Statutes Amended In Order of Appearance: New Act

Please contact your State Representative TODAY!


Anonymous said...

If you want trees, don't compalain about ComEd after you loose your power during and following sever storms. Its about time the state gave the utilities the ability to provide reliable service.

Fargo said...

We have a large tree in our yard within that 20 foot radius. We also pay a tree service to trim the tree when needed to remove any dead or diseased branches, and keep branches clear of utilities, so that the tree is not a threat. If trees are regularly maintained in this way and are healthy, they should NOT be removed.

I recognize the need for more reliable service. After the problems of recent years, minimizing tree damage is an obvious answer. However, property owners should have the legal option of hiring a tree service to trim their trees.

We have rarely lost power in these extreme storms, when many areas nearby did, because the trees along our alley have gotten regular maintenance. Those trees provide a lot of environmental benefit, and I would hate to lose them. It shouldn't be an either-or choice, when a middle ground can be found through regular maintenance.