The state Public Service Commission wants to see comprehensive plans from the electric utility companies in the Mountain State when it comes to keeping their rights of way clear of vegetation and trees.
The PSC issued an order Wednesday that gives the power companies six months to submit their plans.
“They have to file a petition proposing a comprehensive vegetation tree-trimming program to maintain all of their rights of way over a proposed period of time,” PSC spokesperson Susan Small said.
The order comes as part of the PSC’s investigation that it launched following the June 29 derecho that put most state residents without power for several days, some for more than two weeks.
Residents have complained power companies aren’t consistent when it comes to keeping trees trimmed close to their distribution and transmission lines. The companies say the derecho knocked down trees that were not even part of their rights of way.
Small says electric utilities have kind of been on their own when it comes to line clearing programs.
“We’re asking to see what their plans are for the next several years,” Small said. “How it is that they are going to go about treating all of their properties, all of their lines, on a regular maintenance schedule rather than hit and miss.”
The order also requires the companies to submit a way to pay for the additional tree trimming including possible rate increases.
Small says it’s too early to say what may be proposed.
“We’ll just have to see what comes out of the petitions that the companies will be filing with us,” she said. “This is not a closed issue. This is something the commission plans to keep a very active hand in.”
Small says vegetation clearing is not the magic bullet but it’s a piece of the puzzle.
“This won’t prevent outages, this won’t prevent storms from coming through, but when it does happen the commission wants to know everything has been taken care of in advance to get the lights back on as soon as possible,” Small said.