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Board of Public Utilities (BPU) Vegetation Management Plan

Contents:
Diagram
Schedule
Current Status
List server results
Background
News Articles
NJ BPU Rules
Federal Rules
Timeline
FERC & DOE
Documents and Letters
Petition
Federal Reports
Organizations
  BPU
Meeting and conversation notes
Related Issues
Terms:
Links:
BPU Links:
Vegetation Management Rules Website (www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/divisions/energy/veg.html)

Summary Article

Current Status
May 18th 2009 Proposal published in NJ Register
Copy at www.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/rules/
Veg Mgmt Amendments - Proposal - COURTESY COPY (5-8-09)
.pdf
July 21st 2009 Public Hearing
10 AM 8th Floor Hearing Room
Two Gateway Center, Newark, NJ
www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/announcements/PH20090721.pdf
July 22nd 2009 Comment Period closes.
Email to rule.comments@bpu.state.nj.us in MS Word format.
Sierra Club's Comments
* Middle of Aug 2009 Publication of comments on BPU web site
* December 17 2009 Adoption by BPU Commissioners
* January 19 2010 NJ Register publication
Source: /www.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/energy/revisedsched.pdf
* In a July 29 correspondence with the staff they said:
"I understand that the comments will be summarized and published on the BPU website in a few weeks.
[This never happened. ed.]
If there are any revisions, the amendments are expected to be adopted by year's end."

The new proposal includes many improvements, including:

  1. Elimination of the requirement to cut trees which can mature over 15 ft in the border zone up to the edge of the right-of-way in section 14:5-9.6 (e)
    However they added "at a minimum" each EDC (Electrical Distribution Company) shall meet the requirements.
    Which puts no upper limit on what they can cut.
  2. Replacement of reference to the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) (ANSI C2 2002) with Federal Guidelines (FAC-003-1) which uses IEEE Standard 516-2003, for determining the correct clearance.
  3. Requirements for EDC (Electrical Distribution Companies) post schedules.
  4. Requirement for EDC to post list of acceptable species for homeowners to plant.
  5. In the wire zone (directly under the wires) the preferred growth shall be grasses or a low-growing, compatible, scrub-shrub plant community to obtain a meadow effect where possible.
See 2009 Revisions here
Sierra Club Response
Diagrams from Sierra Club response below.
A week after the BPU sent a letter to utilities asking them to use restraint in vegetation management while the rules were being reviewed, PSE&G cut trees which exceeded the the federal clearance guidelines by six times. BPU President Fox sent a letter to Bridgewater condoning this.


Before

After
The mature trees above were 18-25 feet high 70 feet from the center of the power line. If they fell over they would clear the nearest conductor at it's lowest sag point by more than 30 feet. This 6 times the clearance of 5 feet (1.57 m) required by IEEE Standard 516-2003 for a 242 kV line specified in the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) Standard FAC-003-1. However the BPU specifies clearing any tree that can mature over 15' up to the right of way border.
These trees in Bridgewater were cut on June 10, 2008, after the utilities had received a letter from the BPU asking them to use restraint during the interim period while the rules were under review.
In a June 17th letter to Bridgewater residents BPU President Fox states:
"I have been assured that the actions in Bridgewater have happened due to PSE&G following the federal requirements exclusive of any BPU rules."


Diagrams representing clearances in Federal guidelines and 2008 New Jersey Rules.
See Sierra Club proposed revisions below.

Federal NERC FAC-003 guidelines

vegitation clearance for electrical power transmission lines, BPU

NJ BPU Rules

vegitation clearance for electrical power transmission lines, BPU

Note: Some of the towers are taller (100'), which would allow more room for vegetation.
The Federal Guidelines (FAC-003-1) uses IEEE Standard 516-2003, The NJ BPU Rules use the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) (ANSI C2 2002), which is published by IEEE. (Note: C2 was updated in 2007 so the rules should probably refer to C2-2007).

The IEEE code clearances are:
14.7 ft. for 500 kV (phase-to-phase) lines and 5.15 ft for 230 kV lines.
The lines near Hillcrest Rd. in Readington are nominal 500 kV (phase to phase) lines (The highest in the state) where the lines near Van Holten Rd. in Bridgewater are nominal 230 kV lines.
Note: Clearance for trees are listed under phase-to-ground while the line ratings are phase-to-phase.


2009 proposed amendments
The 2009 BPU amendment eliminated the requirement to cut trees which mature over 15 ft in the border zone, however they added "at a minimum" each EDC (Electrical Distribution Company) shall meet the Federal requirements, Which allows them to clear everything up to the right of way boundary.

We propose the following guidelines for allowable vegitiation:
Distance from the edge
of the wire zone.
Height at maturity
1-20 ft < 20 ft.
21-40 ft < 30 ft
41-50 ft < 40 ft
> 51 ft < 45 ft
Cutting an trees outside these guidelines requires property owner notification and the property owner can request a hearing on the need for excessive cutting.

This is consistent with Federal Guidelines in the North American Electric Reliability Corp. FAC-003-2
Technical White Paper - Oct 22, 2008 below.

Figure 1 from: www.nerc.com/docs/standards/sar/FAC-003-2_Technical_White_Paper_2008Oct22.pdf


Vegetation Management Rules (www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/divisions/energy/veg.html)
Vegetation Management Rule Amendments

N.J.A.C. 14:5-9
Rulemaking Schedule *

Date Action
June 19 to July 21 Comments submitted to BPU List Server †
July 21 to August 8 Replies to Comments submitted to BPU List Server
August 21 Public Stakeholder Meeting
September 10 Staff Report to BPU Commissioners
December 3rd at 1pm: Public Stakeholder Meeting
Agenda
December 29th: Finalize memo and rule proposal
January 16th: Submit memo to Bd. Secretary for Feb. 4th agenda
April 3rd Board agenda meeting
May 18th 2009 Proposal published in NJ Register
Copy at www.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/rules/Veg Mgmt Amendments - Proposal - COURTESY COPY (5-8-09).pdf
July 21st 2009 Public Hearing
10 AM 8th Floor Hearing Room
Two Gateway Center, Newark, NJ
www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/announcements/PH20090721.pdf
July 22nd 2009 Comment Period closes.
Email to rule.comments@bpu.state.nj.us in MS Word format.
December 17th 2009 Adoption by BPU Commissioners
January 19th 2010 NJ Register publication
Source: /www.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/energy/revisedsched.pdf

The public comment period prior to the rule revision is over, but you can still submit informal comments to the mail list server. The BPU may also use this list server to notify stakeholders of schedule changes, etc. To subscribe/unsubscribe go to Tree-trimming Mail List Server (www.state.nj.us/bpu/divisions/energy/vegetation_management.html) Send comments to vegetationmanagement@listserv.state.nj.us


What's New: (See timeline below for more details.)

July 21, 2009 Public Hearing
10 AM 8th Floor Hearing Room, Two Gateway Center, Newark, NJ
www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/announcements/PH20090721.pdf
May 18, 2009 Revised Rule proposal published in the NJ Register
Copy at www.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/rules/Veg Mgmt Amendments - Proposal - COURTESY COPY (5-8-09).pdf
See summary here.
August 21, 2008Stakeholders Meeting
Transcript
July 7 - Aug 8 - Public comments and responses on List Server
Public comments will be accepted until July 21, 2008 and these comments will be viewed and responded to by others from July 21, 2008 to August 8, 2008.
See link at www.state.nj.us/bpu/divisions/energy/vegetation_management.html.
The criteria was listed in the Solicitation of Input section of their earlier Notice.
See: Stakeholder Comments and Stakeholder Response
June 23
I talked to some people in Governor Corzine's Policy office on this issue, and they seem to be in agreement with BPU President Fox, that New Jersey needs higher standards because of our population density.
See notes below.
June 19
BPU Stakeholder Letter announcing the comment and reply periods.
June 18
Bridgewater Draft Comments.
June 17
In a letter to Bridgewater residents BPU President Fox states:
"I have been assured that the actions in Bridgewater have happened due to PSE&G following the federal requirements exclusive of any BPU rules."
Comment: Last week they were cutting 18-30 ft. trees 70 ft. from the center of the line in Bridgewater. They were 40 feet from the nearest conductor (electricty will only arc 10.5 ft. according the IEEE Standard 516-2003 which is the guideline used by NERC standard FAC-003) and they would clear the conductor by 30 ft. if they fell. This much closer to the NJ rules (15 ft. trees up to 75 ft.) than it is to the Federal Rules which would allow a 30 ft. tree 50 ft. from the center.
June 6
Letter from Bridgewater to homeowners stating PSE&G and the BPU have denied their request to curtail cutting which will start June 9.
June 5
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. (BGE), criticized by some lawmakers this year for being too aggressive in trimming trees around power lines, faces a $180,000 federal fine from The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) for failing to keep tree limbs a safe distance from high-voltage transmission lines. BGE's fine stems from an Aug. 15 incident in which a transmission line came into contact with trees, causing an interruption. See Story.
June 4, 2008
The letter to utilities and notice promised at the May 8 BPU meeting were released today. They were delayed while they were reviewed by the NJ Attorney General's office.
Letter to Utilities with NOTICE OF SOLICITATION OF INFORMAL PUBLIC INPUT attached.
See new rule procedures.

May 8
At today's BPU Meeting they voted to accept the staff's recommendation to take 10 months to readopt the Vegetation Management Rules with changes. A letter to the utilities will ask them to hold the current rules in abeyance until the process is complete. See the meeting notes below.
Press Release
May 1
David Barnes letter and White Paper. He reviewed over 25 sources on the issue, none of which supported the drastic measures in the NJ Rules.
Feb 20
PSE&G halts cutting until CEO LaRossa meets with the board next Tue.
Feb 19
PSE&G resumes cutting in Readington saying their are continuing until their board or executive committee rules on the BPU letter. (below).
BPU Commissioner Fiordaliso is investigating.

Feb 14, 2008
BPU sends letters to Electrical Distribution Companies (EDCs) directing:
"For a 90 day period starting from Feb. 14, 2008, the EDCs are asked to curtail VM (Vegetation Management) activities in the following municipalities which have expressed concerns related to tree trimming, pending Staff's review and reporting to the Board.
  - Rartian Twp
  - Readington
  - Tewksbury
  - Upper Saddle River
  - Bridgewater
  - Cedar Grove
  - Linden
  - Mt. Olvie
  - Colts Neck
  - Sayerville

...
We also request that you determine an appropriate VM program for your company that reflects the regulations of NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corp.) and the IEEE which allow consideration of local conditions. If you believe that any part of the recently adopted Board regulations unnecessarily require measures for Transmission maintenance beyond those required by the NERC or the IEEE, please provide you comments on this issue by no later than Monday, March 2, 2008, at which time we will schedule a meeting to review your findings. If and EDC determines that the safety or reliability of any part of the electrical transmission or distribution systems would be compromised by this directive, then the EDC shall notify the Boards's Executive Director, or his designee, and proceed with appropriate VM activities to eliminate the concern.
Letter to PSE&G and RECO.

Feb 11
BPU Commission President Fox, Commissioner Fiordaliso, Ken Warren of the BPU Staff, Senator Bateman (Dist. 16 - Bridgewater, ...) , Assemblywoman Karrow (Dist. 23 - Readington, ...) , Somerset Co. Freeholder Peter Palmer, Bridgewater township Mayor Flannery, officials from Readington township and PS&G officials toured several sites where cutting was taking place near Van Holten Rd. in Bridgewater and Hillcrest Rd. in Readington.

The BPU said they would ask to utilities to reduce some of their cutting until the new rules come out.

PSE&G Officials agreed not to conduct vegetation management in Bridgewater until the three month rule review could be completed.

Feb 8
The BPU voted today (Fri 2/8/2008) to approve the entire electrical rules (Chapter 5) without deferring rules for Vegetation management (sub-chapter 9), which they had proposed in their meeting last week. They did not request an extension from the Governor which they had considered last week.

See meeting notes.

Transcript

Feb 5
The BPU staff called to say have been reviewing the material we sent and plan to open the rules again. Their current plan is to approve the existing rules with the caveat that the vegetation management section will be reopened for public comment. This will be an informal process starting in a couple of weeks where stakeholders will be able to air their concerns. It will then go thru the normal 45 day formal comment period with a goal of getting a revised plan out in around 3 months.
The 69 kV issue in Upper Saddle River will be addressed by reclassifying 69 kV lines a sub-transmission requiring less aggressive cutting.
They will discuss the process at Fridays BPU meeting 1:30 Feb. 8.
Feb 1, 2008 BPU meeting
- President Fox says the BPU is postponing a decision on Vegetation Management, based on new information and concerns from government officials and rate payers. Commissioners ask the BPU staff for differences in Fed. and NJ rules. Staff responds they will have to investigate.
More, Transcript
Jan 30 PM
Senator Bateman says he got thru to BPU president Fox and she agreed to postpone decision.
Jan 30
Upper Saddle River group delivers 900 signatures on their petition to BPU President Fox and the Governor
Jan 29, 2008
Sierra Club Raritan Valley Group letter to Senator Bateman, assembly Biondi and BPU Commissioners, documents difference in Federal guidelines and NJ BPU rules.
Nov 16, 2007
Bridgewater Township works with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities to adopt a Resolution "rejecting the concept of clear cutting in EDC transmission line Rights of Way in favor of vegetation management which permits trees and other vegetation to grow in the "Border Zone" of said Rights of Way."
Spring 2007
PSE&G and other utilities start cutting trees in an expanded area (150' instead of 100' where easements allowed) on their right-of-ways under high tension electrical lines. This was in response to a NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU) mandate.
(See timeline below for more details.)

Background:

As a result of the Northeast blackout of August of 2003, the Federal Energy Policy Act (EPAct) was passed in June of 2005, and the NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU) revised their Vegetation Management rules in 2006.

The Federal rules required "vegetation clearance to prevent flashover between vegetation and supply conductors."
See more from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on this below.

The NJ BPU rules require clear cutting any trees which have the potential to grow over 15 ft. out to the edge of their right-of-way, which in many cases is 75 ft. from the center of the power line for 240 kV lines and 90 ft. for 500 kV lines. This is a much larger area than they have trimmed in the past and frequently goes into peoples back yards.
They have also extended rules to 69 kV lines.
The NJ rules not only exceed those of the Department of Energy, but those of most other states.

Since the summer of 2007, the Sierra Club has received requests for assistance from citizens in three of the four electric companies in New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) a FirstEnergy Corp co., and Orange & Rockland Utilities (RECO) a conEdison Co.. We haven't heard from Atlantic City Electric (ACE) customers.

The two figures below show the difference in these requirements.

In the spring of 2007 electrical companies started clear cutting a 150 ft. swath (75' on each side) under high-tension power lines, where allowed in right-of-ways. This is a much wider area than they have cleared in the past and they are now clear cutting trees rather than trimming trees which have the potential to grow beyond 15 ft. in height. Some of these trees are on homeowners property, but the utilities have an easement that allows them to do this.

The NJ Board of Public Utilities agreed to modify their rules and says the new rule proposal is much more citizen and environmental friendly, however the 15 ft rule has not been changed.

Consequences:
The draft resolution from the Somerset Co. Board of Freeholders states:
"Clear cutting can have significant environmental and community character impacts, particularly for established neighborhoods, scenic corridors and high integrity forest subwatersheds, as well effect on the quality of life of neighborhoods and the ecological integrity of natural systems that are located near the Electric Distribution Companies (EDC) Rights of Way."

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJLOM) Resolution says:
"Clear cutting has impaired the property values and quality of life of residents whose properties adjoin or are located near the EDC Rights of Way." See timeline below.

Note: In wetlands trees outside the wire zone are only trimmed.


See news articles:
"Bridgewater residents tell state: Stay away from trees" Courier News, June 21, 2007

"Readington concerned about clear-cutting by utility company
Utility company says it must abide by stricter regulations"

Hunderdon Review, June 26, 2007

"As utility crews wield their saws, tree-loving residents make a stand" Star-Ledger Sept. 23, 2007

"Trees lose in power play", The Record (Hackensack), Jan., 4, 2008

"BPU will rethink tree-felling rules near power lines", The Record (Hackensack), May, 16, 2008

"Neighbors angry after PSE&G fells dozens of trees", The Record (online edition), June, 3, 2008


See a good overview by a citizen/rate payer who did a lot of research.

Note: Some of the towers are taller (100'), which would allow more room for vegetation.
Mr. Saharic (Bridgewater consultant) used the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 70E for distance required for shock protection, The Federal Guidelines (FAC-003-1) uses IEEE Standard 516-2003, The NJ BPU Rules use the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) (ANSI C2 2002), which is published by IEEE. (Note: C2 was updated in 2007 so the rules should probably refer to C2-2007).

The IEEE code clearances are:
14.7 ft. for 500 kV lines and 5.15 ft for 230 kV lines.
The lines near Hillcrest Rd. in Readington are nominal 500 kV (phase to phase) lines (The highest in the state) where the lines near Van Holten Rd. in Bridgewater are nominal 230 kV lines.

I've been to several meetings with the BPU and citizens and their reason for these strict regulations have been evolving. The last version I heard was:
The utilities need room to maneuver large cranes for repairs case a tower falls over because of wind and ice or terrorists.

1. If terrorists attack a line it would not be in a residential area where they could easily be observed. Rules could be more strict in remote areas to cover this.

2. The towers are engineered to National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) (ANSI C2 2002) Rule 250 to withstand the most severe kinds of weather (ice, hurricanes, ...) in this region. We could find no record of a tower collapse because of weather. The BPU points to a transmission line in Oklahoma that came down in an ice storm, but it was on wooden poles not steel towers. If thetowers were in danger of falling oveer, they should be strengthened because a 100 ft. tower would land dangerously close to homes.


New Jersey Administrative Code - BPU - Electrical Service:
The requirements for creating power line clearance are documented in:
The NEW JERSEY ADMINISTRATIVE CODE (NJAC)
Title 14 - Board of Public Utilities, Chapter 5 - Electrical Service,
Subchapter 8/9 - Vegetation management

Current rules are listed at: www.state.nj.us/bpu/pdf/rules/20080227ener.pdf
The New Jersey Administrative Code is published in the New Jersey Register available in most libraries, on-line at, index at www.state.nj.us/bpu/agenda/rules

The text is available at the NJ Office of Administrative Law at: www.lexisnexis.com/njoal/ (Vegetation Management)

Proposed revisions (pdf), Sept. 4, 2007
Section 9 - Vegetation Management

NJ Rules refer to federal documents in:
14:5-9.6(b) An [electric public utility] EDC shall meet the requirements of the National Electric Safety Code (NESC) (C2 2002) offers guidance to safeguard people when electrical lines are designed, installed and maintained.

14:5-9.6 (f) 2 The slope of the topography exceeds 30 degrees and the transmission right of way is such that a tree or other vegetation at mature height will be more than 150 percent of the clearance requirements for an electrical path to ground set forth in the National Electric Safety Code, §232 to §235; or
3. Trees are located within an inactive transmission corridor and at mature height will be more than 150 percent of the clearance requirements for an electrical path to ground set forth in the National Electric Safety Code, §232 to §235.

Comments:

I still have problems with some sections. e.g.
9.6 (e) 2. Limits vegetation height to 15', but from the diagram above you can see a tree 50' from the center could be up to 30' tall without violating the minimum clearance.

9.6 (f) Says and EDC shall be permitted to leave trees. It should say they should be required to leave trees.


Federal Regulations:
The Federal requirements are in: Standard FAC-003-1 Transmission Vegetation Management Program is published by the the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) see excerpts below.

Other standards:
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standard 516-2003 (Guide for Maintenance Methods on Energized Power Lines) and as specified in its Section 4.2.2.3, Minimum Air Insulation Distances without Tools in the Air Gap is referenced in FAC-003 above.

National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) (ANSI C2 2002), which is published by IEEE is referenced in the New Jersey Rules.


Timeline:
Note: We have not been involved in all the discussions on this issue so may be missing some items.
Aug. 2003 - Northeast power blackout - Sagging power lines that brushed against a tree
    limb in northern Ohio caused a chain reaction that affected nearly 50 million people.
June 2005 - Federal Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005, requires Federal agencies to
    expedite rules for electrical utilities to comply with  reliability standards.
Dec 2006  - The NJ BPU revised its regulations to better keep electric lines or towers
       from making dangerous contact with trees.
Spring 2007 - PSE&G and other utilities start cutting trees in an expanded area
  (150' instead of 100' where easements allowed) on their right-of-ways
  under high tension electrical lines.
   This was in response to a NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU) mandate.
May 22 - Bridgewater Mayor arranges a meeting with George Sous from PSE&G to
       survey a homeowners property which had been cut.
June 14 - The Readington Planning Board, in a letter to the BPU, tersely observed
   that woodlands removal has affected water quality and stormwater runoff.
   In fact, the letter noted, the township received a state grant
   "to protect the very trees you are allowing to be destroyed."
July 30 - Raritan Valley Group of the Sierra Club agrees to endorse the efforts
        of Bridgewater township in changing the rules.
Aug 9 - Bridgewater mayor instigates a meeting with BPU, PSE&G,
    Residents who are affected, an Electrical consultant, myself and others.
    Electrical consultant, Alexander Saharic, presents a report on national
    electrical safety codes relative to the transmission facilities.
Sept 4 - Proposed revisions published by by the BPU for a 60 day comment period.
     PSE&G agrees to temporarily stop tree maintenance until Nov. 1
Sept 5 - I sent the diagram below to:
  "Jim Naples" <twpadmin@bridgewaternj.gov>,
   ken.warren@bpu.state.nj, david.ballengee@bpu.state.nj
Sept 6 - Bridgewater mayor Flannery sends letter to J. Fox, President of the BPU
     requesting a review of Saharic's (Bridgewater consultant) report and suggested rule changes.
Mr. Saharic used the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 70E for distance required for shock protection. Sept 7 - Bridgewater mayor Flannery sends a letter to W. Dressel, Chair of the League of Municipalities (NJLOM) with the suggested rule changes for review by the League convention in November. Sept 7 - C. Harrison, Chairman of ad hoc Bridgewatter committee, letter to BPU requesting a review of Saharic's report. Oct 11 - Bridgewater mayor Flannery asks PSE&G to postpone any more tree maintenance Oct. 29 - PSE&G agrees to postpone tree maintenance until Feb. 1, 2008 Oct or Nov - Bridgewater Township contacted the BPU in order to be heard publicly and were told that they do not conduct public hearings prior to their deliberations. Nov 6 - 60 day comment period ends Nov 16 - Bridgewater works with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities to adopt a Resolution "rejecting the concept of clear cutting in EDC transmission line Rights of Way in favor of vegetation management which permits trees and other vegetation to grow in the "Border Zone" of said Rights of Way." Jan 16, 2008 Orange and Rockland Utilities and BPU presentation at Upper Saddle River Shade Tree Commission meeting. Jan 23 Bridgewater Mayor letter to PSE&emp;G requesting delay in cutting until the BPU has adopted the regulations. Jan 24 Representative Garrett writes a letter to BPU Jan 29 Sierra Club Raritan Valley Group letter to Senator Bateman, assembly Biondi and BPU Commissioners, documents difference in Federal guidelines and NJ BPU rules. Jan 30 AM Sierra Club Raritan Valley meets with Senator Bateman, he says he has been trying to reach BPU President Fox with no luck. Jan 30 Upper Saddle River group delivers 900 signatures on their petition to BPU President Fox and the Governor. Jan 30 PM Senator Bateman called to say he got thru to BPU president Fox and she agreed to postpone decision.
Feb 1, 2008 BPU meeting - President Fox says the BPU is postponing a decision on Vegetation Management, based on new information and concerns from government officials and rate payers. Commissioners the BPU staff for differences in Fed. and NJ rules. Staff responds they will have to investigate.
More, Transcript
site: www.nj.gov/bpu/agenda/rules/

Feb 1, 2008
Bridgewater Township letter to PSE&G requesting delay in cutting.
Feb 4
PSE&G Letter postponing tree clearing activities until February 18, 2008.
Feb 5
The BPU staff called to say have been reviewing the material we sent and plan to open the rules again. Their current plan is to approve the existing rules with the caveat that the vegetation management section will be reopened for public comment. This will be an informal process starting in a couple of weeks where stakeholders will be able to air their concerns. It will then go thru the normal 45 day formal comment period with a goal of getting a revised plan out in around 3 months.
The 69 kV issue in Upper Saddle River will be addressed by reclassifying 69 kV lines a sub-transmission requiring less aggressive cutting.
They will discuss the process at Fridays BPU meeting 1:30 Feb. 8.
Feb 6
BPU says their current plan is to approve the existing rules with the caveat that the vegetation management section will be reopened for public comment. This will be an informal process starting in a couple of weeks where stakeholders will be able to air their concerns. It will then go thru the normal 45 day formal comment period with a goal of getting a revised plan out in around 3 months.
The 69 kV issue in Upper Saddle River will be addressed by reclassifying 69 kV lines a sub-transmission requiring less aggressive cutting.
Feb 8
BPU meeting 1:30 - Will discuss process going forward.
Feb 8
The BPU voted today (Fri 2/8/2008) to approve the entire electrical rules (Chapter 5) without deferring rules for Vegetation management (sub-chapter 9), which they had proposed in their meeting last week. They did not request an extension from the Governor which they had considered last week.

See meeting notes.

Transcript

Feb 11
BPU Commission President Fox, Commissioner Fiordaliso, Ken Warren of the BPU Staff, Senator Bateman (Dist. 16 - Bridgewater, ...) , Assemblywoman Karrow (Dist. 23 - Readington, ...) , Somerset Co. Freeholder Peter Palmer, Bridgewater township Mayor Flannery, officials from Readington township and PS&G officials toured several sites where cutting was taking place near Van Holten Rd. in Bridgewater and Hillcrest Rd. in Readington.

The BPU said they would ask to utilities to reduce some of their cutting until the new rules come out.

PSE&G Officials agreed not to conduct vegetation management in Bridgewater until the three month rule review could be completed.

Feb 12
Bridgewater mayor letter to BPU President Fox asking for confirmation of PSE&G guidelines including:

Feb 14
BPU sends letters to Electrical Distribution Companies (EDCs) directing:
"For a 90 day period starting from Feb. 14, 2008, the EDCs are asked to curtail VM (Vegetation Management) activities in the following municipalities which have expressed concerns related to tree trimming, pending Staff's review and reporting to the Board.
  - Rartian Twp
  - Readington
  - Tewksbury
  - Upper Saddle River
  - Bridgewater
  - Cedar Grove
  - Linden
  - Mt. Olvie
  - Colts Neck
  - Sayerville

...
We also request that you determine an appropriate VM program for your company that reflects the regulations of NERC and the IEEE which allow consideration of local conditions. If you believe that any part of the recently adopted Board regulations unnecessarily require measures for Transmission maintenance beyond those required by the NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corp.) or the IEEE, please provide you comments on this issue by no later than Monday, March 2, 2008, at which time we will schedule a meeting to review your findings. If and EDC determines that the safety or reliability of any part of the electrical transmission or distribution systems would be compromised by this directive, then the EDC shall notify the Boards's Executive Director, or his designee, and proceed with appropriate VM activities to eliminate the concern.
Letter to PSE&G and RECO.

Feb 19
PSE&G resumes cutting in Readington saying their are continuing until their board or executive committee rules on the BPU letter. (below).
BPU Commissioner Fiordaliso is investigating.
Feb 20
PSE&G halts cutting until CEO LaRossa meets with the board next Tue.
Feb 20
BPU and RECO representatives toured the 69kV lines in Upper Saddle River.

Attendees:

Ken Warren, Supervising Engineer, NJBPU
Victor Fortkiewicz, Executive Director, NJBPU
John McMahon, President/CEO, O&R
Mark Beamish, Manager-Vegetation Management, O&R
Michelle Damiani (sp?), PR Representative, Rockland Electric/Saddle River Office
Michael Muldowney, Constituent Services Rep, Congressman Scott Garrett's Office
Roger Fyfe, Mayor, Montvale, NJ
Richard Martel, Mayor, Mahwah, NJ
Marty Rothfelder, Attorney representing Acajoux Enterprises LLC, USR Jane Longo

Feb 22
Tentative start of informal review of vegetation managemenet rules.
abt. May - Tentative adoption of new rules.
abt. June - New rules to be published in the N.J. Register and possible on the BPU web
Apr 9, 2008
BPU Staff is developing a report with recommendations to the Board, due May 8.
July 7 - Aug 8 - Public comments and responses on List Server
Aug 21 Stakeholder meeting
May 18, 2009 proposed revisions published in NJ Register
July 21, 2009 Public Hearing

Federal Action:

In the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) "Vegetation Management Report", Sept, 2004, (www.ferc.gov/industries/electric/indus-act/reliability/veg-mgmt-rpt-final.pdf), they say:

"there is a wide range of vegetation management practices and procedures among the reporting transmission owners. There is very little uniformity in regard to right-of-way width, vertical line clearance, inspection frequency, and vegetation management guidelines used."
...

"The transmission owners reported that vegetation management approvals on federally managed rights-of-way are particularly problematic in the Western United States. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) coordinates federal environmental efforts and helps resolve inter-agency differences over environmental issues."

"Variances in vegetation management practices may be resolved in the NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corp.) vegetation management standard development process; if they are not, the Commission may seek to convene the industry, states and other stakeholders to address the remaining issues."

Expert commentary included in the CNUC Final Vegetation Report stated, "most tree/power line contacts occur when trees fall onto lines from outside the rights-of-ways or corridors."

Federal Regulations:
See Fact Sheet - ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005: Significant Policy Changes

Standard FAC-003-1 - Transmission Vegetation Management Program

A. Introduction

  1. Title: Transmission Vegetation Management Program
  2. Number: FAC-003-1
  3. Purpose: To improve the reliability of the electric transmission systems by preventing outages from vegetation located on transmission rights-of-way (ROW) and minimizing outages from vegetation located adjacent to ROW, maintaining clearances between transmission lines and vegetation on and along transmission ROW, and reporting vegetationrelated outages of the transmission systems to the respective Regional Reliability Organizations (RRO) and the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC).
  4. Applicability:
    4.2. Regional Reliability Organization

  5. (Proposed) Effective Date:
B. Requirements

R1. The Transmission Owner (TO) shall prepare, and keep current, a formal Transmission Vegetation Management Program (TVMP). The TVMP shall include the TO's objectives, practices, approved procedures, and work specifications1.


The complete Federal Standard FAC-003-1 Transmission Vegetation Management Program is available at the the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) web site (ftp://www.nerc.com/pub/sys/all_updl/standards/sar/FAC-003_Trans_Veg_Mgmt_Program_06_16_05.pdf).


Related Issues
National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC)
The Sierra Club joined 10 other groups to file suit against the Department of Energy over its final designation of a mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC). "The Department of Energy has ignored the public interest in favor of the private interests of power companies," said Randy Sargent Neppl, wildlife counsel at the National Wildlife Federation.

"Open space conservation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is an extraordinary public policy success story. Time and again, citizens have gone to the polls to support continued funding to preserve the environment and enhance their quality of life. Through NIETC, there is real risk that utilities will seek to build new power lines across important natural and recreational lands."

"Supporters of so-called 'national interest corridors' should have to demonstrate that new transmission lines are the only reasonable solution to meeting energy needs before federally-sanctioned seizure of property is considered."

See "Groups Challenge Department of Energy over Mid-Atlantic Corridor Designation" at PA DEP.
Help ensure that our power line building is in line with state energy policy! from the AMC

Susquehanna-Roseland line:
A new 500 KV Susquehanna-Roseland line will connect switching facilities in Roseland NJ and Berwick, PA., going through Morris, Sussex, Warren and Essex counties. According to PSE&G it is needed to help satisfy the state's growing appetite for electricity.
See June 18, Star Ledger Article.


Documents, Resolutions and letters:


Federal Rules:


Federal Reports and Regulations:
Fact Sheet - ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005: Significant Policy Changes
Standard FAC-003-1 Transmission Vegetation Management Program, published by

Other Federal Standards:
FAC-003 states "These Transmission Owner-specific minimum clearance distances shall be no less than those set forth in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standard 516-2003 (Guide for Maintenance Methods on Energized Power Lines) and as specified in its Section 4.2.2.3, Minimum Air Insulation Distances without Tools in the Air Gap.".
Clearance with the default Transient Overvoltage Factors is 5 ft for 240 kV and 14.7 ft for 500 kV.

The National Electric Safety Code (NESC) (C2-2002) offers guidance to safeguard people when electrical supply and communication lines are designed, iinstalled, operated and maintained. See standards.ieee.org/nesc/
Table 232-4 lists clearances for 242 kV as 7.1 ft and 550 kV lines from 7 - 16 ft depending on the transient overvoltage (surge) factor. (PSE&G said I would have to write a letter to request the transient overvoltage rating of the lines.). Section 235 referred to in the BPU Rules only affects the clearance between wires on multi-conductor structures.

Safety standards found in OSHA/PEOSHA 29 CFR Parts 1910 and 1926, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 70 E), American National Standards Institute (ANSI 2133.1-2006) and Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) EHAP, establish distance requirements for safety and reliability.

U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force, Final Report on the August 14th Blackout in the United States and Canada: Causes and Recommendations (April 2004) (Final Blackout Report).

Order Requiring Reporting on Vegetation Management Practices Related to Designated Transmission Facilities, 107 FERC P 61,053 (2004) (Vegetation Management Order).

at ftp://www.nerc.com/pub/sys/all_updl/standards/sar/FAC-003_Trans_Veg_Mgmt_Program_06_16_05.pdf
121 FERC P 61,296 - "Facilities Design, Connections and Maintenance Reliability Standards", Dec. 27, 2007 (www.ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2007/122007/E-3.pdf)

NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corp.), August 14, 2003 Blackout: NERC Actions to Prevent and Mitigate the Impacts of Future Cascading Blackouts at 9 n.3 (Feb. 10, 2004).

CN Utility Consulting, Utility Vegetation Management Final Report, (March 2004) (CNUC Final Vegetation Report).

Other Rules and Guidelines:

Department of Energy > Current Directives > Click on OE - Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability


Organizations:

New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (www.nj.gov/bpu/)
Division of Energy www.nj.gov/bpu/divisions/energy/
Two Gateway Center (8th Floor)
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (973) 648-2026
BPU agenda schedule
Hearings Schedule
Toll Free Number for Utility Complaints: 1-800-624-0241 (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Commissioners
Jeanne M. Fox
President
973-648-2013 jeanne.fox@bpu.state.nj.us
Frederick F. Butler 973-648-2027 frederick.butler@bpu.state.nj.us
Joseph L. Fiordaliso 973-648-3021 joseph.fiordaliso@bpu.state.nj.us
Connie O. Hughes   connie.hughes@bpu.state.nj.us
Christine V. Bator   christine.bator@bpu.state.nj.us

See: List at Natl. Assn. of Utility Commissioners
NJ BPU Annual Report

Executive Director: Victor Fortkiewicz
Director, Division of Energy: Nusha Wyner 973-648-3621 nusha.wyner@bpu.state.nj.us


Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) 973-430-7000
80 Park Plaza, T12A
Newark, NJ 07102
Contacts (pseg.com/customer/town/rpa/electric.jsp)
Central Div. 732-764-3003
472 Weston Canal Rd., Somerset
Engineering 732-764-3255
Tree Trimming 732-764-3059

Metropolitan Division 973-365-2802
150 Circle AvenueMail
Clifton, NJ 07011


Bridgewater Township (www.bridgewaternj.gov)
Jim Naples - Township Administrator, administrator@bridgewaternj.gov
908-725-6300

North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions (NARUC)
CN Utility Consulting, Inc. (CNUC), Valley Ford, CA. CNUC was formed in 1999 to serve the electric utility vegetation management industry.


Meeting and Conversation Notes:

Feb. 1, 2008 Board Meeting:
President Fox started off saying:

"They recently received new information and had received numerous comments from government officials and rate payers, so were going to postpone any decision, but have a discussion of the issue."

Commissioner Fiordaliso started off asking asking the director of the electrical rules staff, Nusa Wyner, if the New Jersey rules were more strict than the federal rules. She said she would have to investigate.

They asked about replanting trees, talked about trees as carbon sinks and other environmental issues. They even evoked Joyce Kilmer's name (NJ poet who's most famous poem was titled "Trees").

Because chapter 5 of the rules (Electrical service) would expire on Feb. 17, they voted to accept it without the vegetation management, and to request an extension to the vegetation management (subchapter 8/9) from the Governor.

There was some discussion on what would happen if the electrical service rules expire and one staff member suggested the existing rules would remain in effect. This is a problem because the 2006 revision called for cutting trees which could grow over 15 ft. tall. They will try to decide on the legal ramifications by next Friday.

Transcript

Feb. 6 update from Senator Gordon's office:
Matt Marinello of Senator Gordon's office early this evening. He told me that he spoke to a Ricky Johns of the BPU. Mr. Johns told him that the mandate may be approved on Friday without the vegetation management part. He said that the veg-man portion may be postponed until Feb 15--or possibly later (it's possible for the BPU to go back to the governor to ask for more time on this--that's what Matt said). Mr. Johns told him that the BPU has received a lot of flak about the veg-man (I wonder why?). I have no way of confirming if what Mr. Johns or Matt tell me is accurate info. I'm not sure who Ricky Johns is or what position he has at the BPU. I think I've heard the name mentioned. Anyway, cross your fingers, because the BPU just might be giving the veg-man another look. Senator Gordon's office is a little behind on the details of the veg-man. The BPU gave him the 'party-line' about needing to cut the trees to provide access during emergencies and to prevent outages. I told Matt that Rockland has done sufficient clearance via conservative trimming over the years; also that the BPU wants to cut all trees in the easements regardless of whether they could impact the wires (the no-exceptions enforcement). I also told him about the 69 vs 200kv controversy. I will be sending Matt a copy of Cong. Garrett's letter to Jeanne Fox. Matt tells me that if anyone would like to get a letter to the BPU, he and the Senator would be willing to forward it directly to their liaison. All the writer would have to do is send the letter over to Senator Gordon's office in Fair Lawn.


BPU meeting Feb. 8
They said:
"What we're voting on is adopting these regulations as final, with an addendum that for transmission lines if there are exemption requests in, that there -- we would ask the utilities not to cut those trees, unless they can demonstrate to us before they cut them that there's an emergency situation".
(see below for confusion on exemptions.)

They will go thru a revision process over the next three months, which will take into account the Federal guidelines.

They were not specific on how the comment and review process will proceed.

There is some confusion on exemptions:

  PRESIDENT FOX: "They (Homeowners and municipalities) know they can file for, I guess, a waiver here. Is that what we call it?

  MS. WYNER: I think there's an exemption process.
  PRESIDENT FOX: There's an exemption process. So that if exemptions are filed here at the board, we'll be asking the utilities that unless it's an emergency situation.

I left a note for President Fox asking for clarification of this issue, but have not received a response.

The Rules 14:5-9.6 state:
"An [electric public utility] EDC may request an exemption from (b) and (c) [EDC shall meet the requirements of the National Electrical Safety Code (C2 2002) for minimum clearances] based upon exigent circumstances.

In a conversation after the meeting the BPU official said exemptions can only be requested for exigent (requiring immediate action or aid; urgent; pressing) circumstances, such as wetlands or historical (300 year old tree) cutting.

It is unclear to me what the Utilities can do during the next 3 months. The BPU may be sending a letter to utilities to explain this. We will try to get a copy.

Transcript


BPU meeting May. 8
At today's BPU meeting the board approved a proposal by the staff to change the Vegetation management rules and go thru the re-adoption process. The whole process will take 10 months, starting with a 2-week review period for stakeholder comments, a 2-week period for the BPU to reply followed by a stakeholder meeting for informal public comments. Dates were not announced at the meeting.

They said they would hold the present rules in abeyance until that process is completed.

Commissioners Fiordaliso and Butler tried to get the BPU staff to be more specific as to what "hold the rules in abeyance" meant, but trying to get the BPU staff to be specific is like pushing jello up a hill. They asked if that meant the utilities would not be clear-cutting and the response was something like:

"The utilities will be told to use integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices, which requires restraint by cutting only where the safety of the system and people working in the area is affected."

A letter will be sent to the utilities and a notice to that effect will be published in the N.J. Register.

I asked Mr. Weyant, A PSE&G representative at the meeting, whether they would be changing their practices for cutting in Long Valley which is scheduled to start in the next day or so and he said they won't change anything until they see something in writing.

Commission president Fox was more conciliatory to the utilities. She said it was appropriate for New Jersey to have higher standards than other states because of our population density and the expectation of high reliability for electrical service. She said the commission also had an obligation to ratepayers to hold rates down, and cutting trees was more cost effective than trimming. (This is the first time I've heard any one state the "real motive".)

She suggested they could institute a plan for transmission lines similar to that for distribution lines (lower voltage lines on residential streets), which would allow municipalities to take responsibility for trimming and shoulder the cost.


May 8, 2008 Press Release (pdf) (text):
They say:
"The NJBPU will ask the state's electric utilities to coordinate their vegetation management activities with the rulemaking process until the vegetable management rule is formally adopted. The rulemaking will include comments accepted from the public, a stakeholder meeting after the comments are completed, a public meeting if needed, and a 60-day comment period after the subchapter is published in the New Jersey Register. Residents are encouraged to discuss any of their specific issues with their respective utility vegetation managers and foresters during the rulemaking process."

It also refers to the cause of the 2003 power outage was a tree in Ohio contacting a power line.

David Barnes comment on their web site states:
Your release states "a massive electric power outage was caused after a tree came into contact with a transmission line in Ohio ." This is misleading. Trees come into contact with power lines every single day without the catastrophic result of August 2005. It is wrong to imply that one tree caused that outage. As I stated in my letter and white paper, as found by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the outage was caused by the failure of utility personnel to respond effectively when their equipment failed catastrophically, with no contingency plan in place for such a combination of failures, when a tree made an unfortunate, improper contact. Pinning this solely on the tree unfairly simplifies what is a rather unique situation, a series of failures.

They also say:

"As the most densely populated state in the country, transmission line failures affect a greater proportion of the state's residents than anywhere else in the nation."
Comment:
A given size power line supports the same number of customers no matter where it is. An outage in a more populous state, like NJ, would then have a "lower proportion" of the residents affected because of the higher base.
Less densely populated states would have more miles of power line per customer so the potential for a problem would be greater.

The current rules which require an arborist to identify tree species which can mature over 15 ft. and more cutting than was done in the past will certainly be more expensive initially, and the Utilities are likley to ask for rate increases to cover this expense. Can we really expect them to reduce rates in the future because of savings after the trees have been removed?

Govenor Corzine's Policy office
On June 23 I talked to some people in Governor Corzine's Policy office on this issue, and they seem to be in agreement with BPU President Fox, that New Jersey needs higher standards because of our population density. We are part of the regional Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland (PJM) Interconnection, an independent regional transmission organizations (RTO) coordinating the movement of power through the transmission network across and within its region and reporting to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). According to them NJ is in a transmission-constrained area at the end of the line, so if we have an outage we can only be fed from South and have no backup in the North. At least until the Susquehanna-Roseland line is installed.
When I pointed out cutting trees which are 3-4 times the distance electricity will not help reliability, he went back to the access argument.


Terms:
ACE - Atlantic City Electric
ANSI - American National Standards Institute
BPU - Board of Public Utilities
CEQ - Council on Environmental Quality
EDCs - Electrical Distribution Companies
EPAct - Energy Policy Act of 2005
ERO - Electric Reliability Organization
FAC - Federal Advisory Committee
FERC - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
IVM - Integrated vegetation management
JCP&L - Jersey Central Power and Light
NARUC - National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions
NERC - North American Electric Reliability Council
NESC - National Electric Safety Code
NFPA - National Fire Protection Association
NIETC - National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor
NJLOM - NJ League of Municipalities
PJM - Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection
PSE&G - Public Service Electric and Gas
RECO - Orange & Rockland Utilities
ROW - Right of way
RRO - Regional Reliability Organizations
TCIA - Tree Care Industry Association
TO - Transmission Owner
TVMP - Transmission Vegetation Management Program
VM Vegetation Manager

Links:
* BPU Announcements (www.state.nj.us/bpu)
* Vegetation Management Rules (www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/divisions/energy/veg.html)
* Vegetation Management (Tree-trimming) Mailing List (www.state.nj.us/bpu/divisions/energy/vegetation_management.html)
* NOTICE OF SOLICITATION OF INFORMAL PUBLIC INPUT
Docket #EX07070511
Docket #EX08040235

* FERC: Electrical Reliability
* NERC Standard FAC-003-1 - Transmission Vegetation Management Program
* (www.ferc.gov/industries/electric/indus-act/reliability/veg-mgmt-rpt-final.pdf)
* Map showing location of line in Bridgewater.


Page URL: NewJersey.SierraClub.org/RaritanValley/bpu_veg_mgmt.asp
Page Last Modified 11/22/2009
Send comments to Don McBride at dtmcbride@alumni.haas.org
I have posted this information on my own without clearance from the National Sierra Club and take responsibility for any misuse of information represented here. The Executive Committee of the Raritan Valley Group of the Sierra Club has passed a resolution to support this effort.


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