Malloy takes aim at tree trimming
HARTFORD -- Connecticut is going to have to change the way streetscapes are planted near overhead power lines, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday.
"How can you afford not to do it?" Malloy said. "Tree trimming is a reasonable step. I would also tell you that planting of trees in the future has to be looked at differently. Trees grow. And if you plant them under wires, don't be surprised that somewhere between five and 15 years, those wires will come into contact with a tree and will be threatened by it.
"That's just a reality and we'll have to take a different approach."
Earlier in the day, Chris Donnelly, urban forestry coordinator for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, told the governor's Two Storm Panel that there is no specific industry standard to direct local tree wardens or utility crews in pruning trees near power lines.
"We have yet to define the overall goal, or purpose, of the roadside forest in terms that are clearly understood and generally accepted by most people," Donnelly told the group investigating the preparations and aftermath of the August and October storms.
Malloy said he wasn't sure how an expanded tree-trimming program would be financed -- by utility shareholders or customers.
"How it's paid for is different than my support for a more-aggressive tree-trimming program," Malloy said. "There's room to discuss how that should be carried out. Ultimately, safety should not have a price tag. And the ability of the system to respond to natural-occurring circumstances needs to be hardened, and it's quite clear that part of that hardening has to contain a more aggressive approach to foliage."
Malloy told reporters he will not accept a proposed $10 million fund for consumer reimbursements from Connecticut Light & Power, because it would have to go through state budget processing and could affect the state's spending cap.
But the governor said he would offer the utility suggestions on how to use the fund among the hundreds of thousands of CL&P customers who lost power in both storms.
Malloy said local officials should not expect the state to assist them with the 25 percent local funding required for 75 percent federal disaster-relief funding that will be available following President Obama's disaster declaration Thursday.
Back from his whirlwind visit with state troops in Afghanistan, the governor said during a Friday news conference that while he did not suggest the former president of CL&P be replaced, he made it plain that he was "quite dissatisfied" with the utility's performance after the Halloween weekend storm.
Malloy's statements came at about the same time that Jeffrey D. Butler, who resigned as president and chief operating office of CL&P on Thursday, requested reporters leave he and his family alone.
Malloy's early afternoon session with reporters coincided with a day-long meeting of his Two Storm Panel in the nearby Legislative Office Building, during which electrical worker union officials blamed Butler for inadequate staffing procedures and prolonged delays in restoring power.
"We were not prepared at all and we are in desperate need of help," Cirillo said, adding that CL&P vowed to better inform customers and municipalities back in 1985, after Hurricane Gloria.
"I can't believe that in 2011, people in this state have to listen to executives talking about how to communicate," Cirillo said, adding that CL&P "wasted" hundreds of man hours by limiting line crews to 16-hour shifts with eight hours off.
"This, in my humble opinion, resulted in our customers being without power for longer than they should have," said John K. Unikas, assistant business manager for Local 420, which services CL&P towns in the western half of the state.