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For Tree-Trimming Opponents, a Victory, at Least for Now

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The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is calling for a suspension of "enhanced tree trimming" around the state. It's a decision following months of public outcry.

Nutmeggers loves their trees.

Take, for example, Chris Ozyckfrom the Urban Resources Initiative, who testified last week at a PURA public hearing in opposition to United Illuminating's "enhanced tree trimming" plan. The plan says that trees within an eight-foot radius of power lines could be trimmed or removed entirely. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot," he said, "nothing is going to get better. It's not. That's from Dr. Seuss's The Lorax."

"After the 2011 storms, there were very strong passions calling for aggressive tree trimming in order to prevent outages in the future."<br><em>Art House</em>

It seems PURA regulators are taking testimony like that to heart. This week, they requested that Connecticut Light and Power and UI "voluntarily curtail" their enhanced tree trimming programs. The ruling will not affect routine trimming operations.

"There were very, very strong passions at that meeting," said Art House, chair of the PURA board. "But let's not forget, after the 2011 storms, there were very strong passions calling for aggressive tree trimming in order to prevent outages in the future. I did recognize that there was a lot of emotion in that meeting, but there's a lot of emotion on the other side, when you lose electricity. Welcome to the world of being a public utilities regulator."

Tree advocates are hailing the suspension as a victory, but it's unclear what impact the decision will ultimately have on utilities. UI issued a statement saying they plan to request clarification on the scope of PURA's suspension. House said PURA regulators will meet with the two utilities on March 27 to review their tree-trimming plans.

The PURA board likely won't issue a final decision until next month.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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