PSC approves line clearing plans for AEP companies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Service Commission gave approval Tuesday to Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power companies to begin a new comprehensive right-of-way vegetation management plan.

There were complaints too numerous to count against electric utility companies in West Virginia concerning tree trimming in the days after the Derecho and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The companies were blamed for not having their rights-of-way cleared. The PSC ordered each company to submit a comprehensive plan. The commission has approved plans for four smaller companies in recent months and announced the approval of the American Electric Power (Appalachian Power, Wheeling Power) plan Tuesday.

PSC spokesman Susan Small said this will be different than what companies have done in the past.

“They will go through their entire territory and systematically trim the trees and vegetation so that they’re not in the way of the power lines,” she said. “This is a way to minimize any impact during a major storm.”

Small called it a comprehensive end-to-end, time cycle based right-of-way vegetation management plan. She said the PSC had to look differently at line clearing plans after the 2009 blizzard and the 2012 storms.

“It just isn’t acceptable to have people without power for five days, eight days, 14 days,” she said. “So hopefully this is a proactive approach to keeping the lights on.”

The PSC also ruled it would allow both Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power to recover the cost of the program through their rates. There’s no word yet on what that will cost individual customers.

“The commission has said it will be rolled into their next rate case, which they have recently filed. But they want the company to get to work, cutting back trees, cutting back vegetation right-of-way,” she said.

The vegetation management plan for the FirstEnergy companies Mon Power and Potomac Edison is still pending before the PSC.

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