In an April 4 letter, American Public Power Association President and CEO Sue Kelly told federal lawmakers that the Association supports legislation that would facilitate vegetation management on federal lands, noting that the measure will boost the electricity grid’s reliability and reduce the threat of wildfires.
Kelly sent the letter to Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., to express the Association’s support for H.R. 1873, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act. LaMalfa and Schrader are the sponsors of the legislation.
“The proper management of vegetation near electric infrastructure located on federal lands is important to ensure electric reliability and prevent wildfires,” wrote Kelly. She noted that vegetation that makes contact with electric infrastructure could result in power outages and forest fires. Properly maintained rights-of-way, or ROW, also increase public safety and provide environmental benefits, Kelly said.
The Association “is pleased to support reintroduction of this important legislation to facilitate vegetation management on federal lands, including hazardous and high-risk vegetation outside of ROW. The bill will enhance the reliability of the electricity grid and reduce the threat of wildfires to and from electric transmission and distribution facilities located on such lands,” she wrote.
“As noted in the Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) in 2015, the August 14, 2003, Northeast blackout was caused by inadequate vegetation management (tree pruning and removal),” Kelly told the lawmakers.
In investigating the cause of the blackout, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that vegetation management approvals on federally managed ROW are particularly problematic due to permitting and environmental requirements that are inconsistent and time-consuming.
“In the case of federal lands, the inability of utilities to remove vegetation beyond their easement presents a major obstacle in protecting the electrical infrastructure,” the Association’s president and CEO said. “Not only must long-reaching tree branches be pruned to avoid contact with transmission lines, but brush and other ground vegetation must be periodically cleared from the base of transmission towers to minimize the effects of fires.”
Kelly said the legislation will offer the consistency and flexibility needed by the Association’s members to treat potentially dangerous trees and facilitate access to and clearance of ROW where transmission lines and associated facilities are located, while also protecting public power utilities from liability when federal agencies fail to allow utilities to manage the vegetation in and around ROW.