Here in the northeast, we’ve been hit by a succession of “weather events” – ice storms, wind-storms, hurricanes, early snowfall, late snowfall. Each one offered the utility companies serving this area to demonstrate once again that they were completely unprepared.
In each case, customers in the most advanced country in the world were left without power for weeks at a time.
They have come in for heavy criticism from citizens and government officials alike.
Now the utility companies are fighting back – against their customers and their trees, going on a rampage to cut down every standing tree even remotely close to a utility line. They say this is because branches falling on the lines are causing the outages and slowing repairs.
In Massachusetts, NSTAR last month cut down hundreds of trees in a 100-foot wide, 30-mile long swath. They called a halt only after a howl of protest, according to boston.comhttp://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/07/19/nstar_takes_heat_on_tree_removal_policy/ report.
National Grid has told residents it will soon start a program of “heavy-trimming.”
In Western Massachusetts, Western Mass. Electric has announced a program of “enhanced trimming.”
This could all be avoided by simply requiring all overhead lines to be buried. Almost all other advanced countries do this routinely. Underground, power wouldn’t go out every time a branch falls, or when snow and ice pile up on the lines. There would be no need for clear-cutting people’s property.
The initial cost would be high, to be sure, and this is what utility companies don’t like. But in the long run, maintenance would less, and there wouldn’t be the high cost of getting power back up after a “weather event.”