Utilities Stress Need For Safety, While Environmentalists Fall In Favor Of Aesthetics

RIVER EDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The New Jersey Public Board of Utilities is holding meetings in Trenton between power companies and environmentalists because tree maintenance rules around power lines in the state will expire in less than a year.

The question is whether to modify policies to prevent the destruction of trees, or to keep them just the way they are, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported Tuesday.

You’ve seen them in your neighborhoods – trees trimmed oddly in a V-shape so that power lines can run through them. Others are just haphazardly chopped at the top.

“When the leaves are there you don’t see the problem. It is just in the winter when there are no leaves,” said River Edge resident Kathleen Howlin. “It doesn’t look so good, but they have to do what they have to do to get the power through.”

The Garden State has become a battle ground between some neighbors who would like to see the beauty of their tree-lined streets preserved and power companies that have to protect power lines in the wake of dramatic storms and hurricanes, like Sandy.

“These lines up here run power for miles, and so what they have to do is cut them and clear them away from the wires,” Bob Caffrey said.

Caffrey, who cuts trees for a living, said while some of these jobs may look ugly it has to be done.

“They have to cut 10 feet away from the wire,” he said. “It is a necessity to help with the power because during an ice storm the limbs are close to the wires. They bend over from the weight of the snow or ice and then they snap a line.”

A PSE&G spokesperson said the company has certified arborists on staff to make sure the health of trees is preserved, while at the same time keeping electric lines away from branches. But some trees end up looking a lot different.

“I think we have to have power, but I do think they can trim the trees a better way and prevent them as growing as part of the wires,” River Edge resident Eileen McElroy said.

“I love the trees. (Power lines) should be underground like most major cities and won’t disturb the beauty of the town,” resident Bert Stratford added.

Current state guidelines require inspection of trees annually and pruning at least once every four years. Companies decide how much to cut, but some environmentalists are going out on a limb, hoping to limit pruning.

State rules for maintaining trees around power lines will expire in less than a year. The New Jersey Public Board of Utilities will decide whether to keep the rules or change them.

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