See: Exemption and Vote
 1                      STATE OF NEW JERSEY
                     BOARD OF PUBLIC UTILITIES
 2                      NEWARK, NEW JERSEY
 3                         BOARD AGENDA
 4    DATE:  FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2008
 5    ITEM 2B
 6    ENERGY
 7  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
 8    DOCKET NO.:  EX07070511           :
      OF N.J.A.C. 14:5, ELECTRIC        :
      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
        (Via Telephone)
24         2295 BIG ENOUGH WAY
           TOMS RIVER, NJ 08755
25         (732) 557-4755
1               PRESIDENT FOX:  The second item on this
 2   meeting is the vegetation management rules.  We had them
 3   on the agenda for last Friday and had a long discussion
 4   about them, and we're now bringing them back for
 5   consideration by the board.
 6               I just want to say a few words before I ask
 7   Ken Warren to jump in with the staff presentation.  And
 8   if you recall in '03 there was a massive, massive outage
 9   for the northeast and Canada.  And that was caused by a
10   tree limb in Ohio.  I served on the joint Canadian/U.S.
11   task force to look at that.  We spent well over a year
12   looking at that with national and international experts.
13   There were a lot of things that this country, not just
14   New Jersey, needed to do for reliability of service.
15               The board recognizes the concerns that are
16   expressed by residents and local governments through
17   their comments that they have submitted and discussions
18   at public hearings.
19               Our staff has gone over them very closely to
20   address environmental and aesthetic concerns while
21   continuing to comply with what we think are reliability
22   needs in the State of New Jersey.  And we're going to be
23   talking about and what Mr. Warren will present is and
24   what we will consider here is the possibility of coming
25   back -- and I think it makes a lot of sense -- coming

 1   back in a short time frame while we adopt the rules as
 2   final because these rules are comprehensive.  They are
 3   not just the vegetation management tree rules.
 4               We have to take some action today because if
 5   we don't, we have no rules in place.  On the other hand,
 6   I'm going to ask staff to look at and we'll discuss it
 7   with fellow commissioners whether, in fact, we can do a
 8   proceeding where we go past this narrow area of
 9   vegetation management over the next couple months to see
10   if we can in any way modify and improve upon those
11   rules.
12               What we have is and I've -- I would ask the
13   citizens who are here to look at rules that we have.
14   Those rules were designed really based on a lot of
15   action that happened at the national level with a lot of
16   experts.  I had worked at the Environmental Protection
17   Agency for seven years.  I worked at the
18   environmental -- Department of Environmental Protection
19   for three years before that and am considered somewhat
20   of a strong environmentalist and I love trees.  When we
21   did these rules several years ago when we first were
22   working on these rules, it was based on making
23   reliability much more of a reality here in New Jersey.
24   I should know that since the rules went into effect --
25               When were they originally in effect, Ken?

 1               '05?
 2               MR. WARREN:  The first vegetation management
 3   rules came into effect on December 18th, 2006.
 4               PRESIDENT FOX:  Okay.  And those rules are
 5   very much specific-geared toward trees, and we had
 6   arborists, professional people from Cook College, from
 7   DEP, and at the national level, look at these.  We
 8   required in these rules that all the utilities --
 9   electric utilities have people who are certified
10   arborists by the national standards, as well as by the
11   State Department of Environmental Protection.
12               And so we literally bent over backwards to
13   make sure that we looked at this from tree people, from
14   the green people -- not from utility people and what
15   they want -- but from what the people who know trees,
16   what that works.  We looked at what type of trees could
17   grow in certain areas, whether under the wires or in the
18   buffer, doesn't mean that rules are never perfect which
19   is why we're going to take another good look at these.
20               But the board staff has been working on
21   these reliability standards on and off and we adopted
22   different standards for tree trimming.  And we actually
23   gave some leeway to municipalities if there were not
24   transmission lines that could impact their neighbors.
25   So, for instance, if you have a small line going down

 1   the middle of Main Street if that municipality wants a
 2   lesser standard there, that's fine.  They have to say to
 3   their public that we're doing this.  Because if their
 4   lights go out, it's going to be the town father's fault
 5   or town parents' fault compared to the utility's fault
 6   or the board's fault.
 7               But on the other hand, if you're talking
 8   about a huge transmission line that could take out
 9   several counties or several communities, that's
10   something else.  So we had to balance that out.  And we
11   know that trees are the number one cause of electric
12   outages.  And one thing we don't -- our number one
13   concern is reliability of service for everybody in this
14   State.
15               So we instructed our staff to do these
16   comprehensively.  I think they are extremely
17   comprehensive regulations and involving the utilities
18   who really have some very good people who know their
19   business with transmission and distribution lines,
20   municipal shade tree officials, recluse forestry
21   professionals, and others.
22               And those rules, as Mr. Warren said, were
23   adopted in December of '06; however, because of a
24   National Electric Reliability Council, a NERC proceeding
25   that went on in '06, we looked at those things too.

 1   They are minimum standards I am told at the national
 2   level.
 3               In '07 these rules are up for readoption.
 4   So even though we just adopted them final in December
 5   '06, we brought them up for readoption.  Usually it's
 6   every five years, but this is an unusual situation.  So
 7   staff had an opportunity to get more stakeholder
 8   comments, and we have the stakeholder process that went
 9   and the publication of the rules as proposed were in
10   September of this year, and then we had a public comment
11   period, and we had until February 17th -- like now -- to
12   adopt these.
13               These rules are part and partial of an
14   entire package of rules which Nusha Wyner, who is the
15   director who can talk about, but what we're trying to do
16   is focus on really the vegetation management to do.
17               Nusha.
18               MS. WYNER:  Yes.
19               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  I have some
20   comments after the presentation.
21               MS. WYNER:  Do you want to speak now?
22               I was just going to give a small
23   presentation, kind of providing the background.
24               Last week the board voted on the adoption of
25   Chapter 5 which is for electric rules and part of

 1   Chapter 5 is Section 9 which deals with vegetation
 2   management.
 3               As you explained just now, that's only been
 4   part of Chapter 5 for approximately a year because those
 5   rules were adopted back in December 2006.  And, of
 6   course, it was a great impetus to make sure we would not
 7   have a reputation and due to mistakes in our State
 8   dealing with tree trimming.  And all the utilities were
 9   ordered to tree trim on a four-year cycle because to
10   distinguish these rules I think is that it sets forth
11   not only for distribution lines, but also transmission
12   lines.  And transmission lines as defined in the rules
13   here pertain to lines exceeding 69 kV.  I want to stress
14   that point:  Exceeding 69 kV.
15               It's been our practice that anything below
16   that 69 kV and below are treated as distribution, where
17   the tree trimming is nowhere near -- a lot more
18   digression because the impacts are quite smaller if one
19   of these lines go down.
20               In the meantime, in the one year that this
21   rule has really been in operation and the utilities have
22   been conforming to the processes set forth in that rule,
23   instances have occurred where there have been concerns
24   by both homeowners, as well as municipalities because
25   there has been to some extent tree trimming under and in

 1   the border areas related to transmission lines.
 2               Now NERC has standards that it issued,
 3   that's National Electric Reliability Council, and those
 4   are national minimum standards.  And, in fact, they do
 5   give some discussion to the localities and how they deal
 6   with it.  That's why the minimum standards because they
 7   clearly can't make very specific rules for the entire
 8   country because there is always differences.
 9               And we've worked with that.  So we've had
10   one year's worth of experience.  Clearly, there are
11   issues.  We're very much concerned with those issues.
12   We, too, love trees.  And it's not an issue of we're
13   against the trees.  And they do provide all kinds of
14   benefits.
15               So we have discussed it internally, and we
16   are recommending to the board that we will continue the
17   task we've already started which is taking a look at the
18   standards that are currently in the rules and that we
19   are asking you to adopt right now because we don't want
20   to be without rules.  We have everything but the
21   vegetation management rules.  That was done last week.
22               These rules will expire by February 17th.
23   We need these rules.  They contribute to the safety and
24   reliability of the power system within the State.  We
25   do, in fact, need the rules in the current process that

 1   we have now, whereby there's pretty much clear cutting
 2   underneath the wire, all the way through the border
 3   area.  There might be some leeway that we might be able
 4   to introduce.  We've already spoken to the utilities,
 5   and they have submitted a number comments to us.
 6               We will ask the utilities that they take
 7   into consideration the tree trimming factors, that there
 8   are aesthetic concerns and there are neighborhood
 9   concerns and municipal concerns.  We will work with them
10   to insure that those concerns will be addressed.
11               We intend to submit a report to you in
12   approximately three months.  Obviously we don't know how
13   long it will take, but we would hope to have a number of
14   recommendations on how to proceed further in this
15   specific area.  And, in fact, I think we are scheduling
16   a meeting this Monday already to take a look at one
17   specific area which has been a great deal of public
18   concern.
19               So with that, I would recommend that you
20   adopt the rules as currently published because you
21   really need rules; that you also -- we also recommend
22   that the staff continue its process of reviewing those
23   rules, specifically in the transmission area, whether we
24   can work in some greater leeway, consistent with
25   reliability, consistent with safety; and that staff

 1   discuss with the utility that consistent reliability and
 2   safety perhaps we can be somewhat -- have some greater
 3   discussion in the transmission and the border areas
 4   specifically.  So that's our recommendation to you.
 5               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  I'll move it on
 6   the condition that we have some discussion on it.
 7               COMMISSIONER BUTLER:  Second on the same
 8   condition.
 9               PRESIDENT FOX:  Okay.  Then I'm for that.
10               Commissioner, you want to go?
11               COMMISSIONER BUTLER:  No.  I'll defer.
12               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Thank you.
13               We've been getting numerous expressions of
14   concern from not only elected officials, but also
15   residents who live along these right-of-ways and so on.
16   I'm happy to hear that you indicated that the process is
17   going to continue and I think the process should
18   continue in an expeditious way.  At some point there
19   will be opportunity for public input as far as these
20   rules are concerned.  Is that correct?
21               MS. WYNER:  Absolutely.
22               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Now, you
23   indicated -- and that's very important because the
24   public has to have an opportunity to allow their views
25   to be expressed because collectively, hopefully, we can

 1   come up with something which is less abrasive to
 2   everyone.
 3               You indicated you could have a report to us
 4   in three months?
 5               MS. WYNER:  Yes.  That's the target.  Yes.
 6               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Okay.  So when
 7   that report is issued to us, what kind of time frame are
 8   we looking at as far as public hearings and things of
 9   that sort?
10               MS. WYNER:  Commissioner, at this stage I
11   really don't know.  It may well be we come up with
12   something and have a lot of input, that we come up with
13   a suggestion to make.  At that stage of the game it may
14   not take long.  It may take long.  It's really very
15   fact-sensitive.  What we are going to be looking at is a
16   very fact-sensitive process.
17               PRESIDENT FOX:  What it comes down to
18   though, what we're going to be asking the utilities to
19   do is we have a process in the rules now if somebody is
20   unhappy with -- we had this great notice procedure.
21   Municipalities get notice a minimum of two months
22   before.  Homeowners, customers get noticed with door
23   hangers or letters and all kinds of possibilities.  And
24   they know they can file for, I guess, a waiver here.
25               Is that what we call it?

 1               MS. WYNER:  I think there's an exemption
 2   process.
 3               PRESIDENT FOX:  There's an exemption
 4   process.  So that if exemptions are filed here at the
 5   board, we'll be asking the utilities that unless it's an
 6   emergency situation, that they can demonstrate to us --
 7   to our engineers that, in fact, these lines are at risk
 8   because of these trees, unless in that situation that
 9   we're asking the utilities not to remove trees where
10   there are waivers or exemptions requested here at the
11   board.  That's why I want to move quickly on this.
12               The two seasons that are scary with trees is
13   when it's icy or, secondly, in the summer -- which has
14   happened in Ohio in '03 where it's hot -- these lines
15   are hot and they're sagging and a tree goes into it and
16   there goes half the country.  So I want this done before
17   the summer season occurs which is where they got the
18   three months from.
19               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  And I understand
20   the rules because I read them.  I just want a time frame
21   is the point I was getting to so that this doesn't go on
22   indefinitely.  I want some type of time frame where
23   we're going to get this report.  We could have possibly
24   public hearings, if necessary, to try to get some
25   resolution.  And I'm not saying haphazard resolution --

 1   I'm not suggesting that by any stretch of the
 2   imagination -- but a resolution that, hopefully, will be
 3   somewhat more acceptable to everyone concerned.  And
 4   that's all I'm looking for.  I'm not looking for this
 5   thing to be stretched on for the next year, two years,
 6   five years.
 7               MS. WYNER:  Three months you'll have a
 8   status report with recommendations.
 9               PRESIDENT FOX:  And what's interesting is
10   the rules give us some leeway to it.  So, for instance,
11   in the northern part of the State in Bergen County,
12   there was a situation where the 69 kV lines -- or the
13   69 kV line while it could be a transmission line or it
14   could be a distribution line -- it's in that medium
15   category -- that we had some leeway so our engineers are
16   working in communities to work it out so it's likely --
17   I won't say definite, but it's likely that, in fact, a
18   lot of those trees won't have to come down.  They are
19   69 kV.  On the other hand, in other parts of the
20   communities where they are --
21               What are they 240 kV?
22               MR. WARREN:  Two-thirty or 130.
23               PRESIDENT FOX:  We need to look at those and
24   we will on a case-by-case basis.  Unless it's an
25   emergency that the reliability of the system isn't

 1   threatened by these trees with those transmission lines,
 2   we're asking the utilities not to take down those trees
 3   unless they come to us -- if there's an exemption filed,
 4   unless they come to us and say -- they demonstrate to us
 5   that there is an emergency and trees have to come down
 6   right away.  So, obviously, there's incentive for us to
 7   move on this, for the utilities to have us move on this
 8   because of the reliability issue.
 9               MR. WARREN:  Clarification.
10               COMMISSIONER BATOR:  Can I add something?
11               Do I find, fellow commissioners,
12   eyeballed -- getting numerous expressions of concern
13   about these rules, but one of the most important things
14   we do in the board is to insure reliability and, as you
15   said, President Fox, that the 2003 blackout where it was
16   caused by a downed tree branch.
17               I am also heartened by your description of
18   the history of how these rules were adopted and so there
19   was a lot of thought and a lot of discussion into this
20   rulemaking process.  And I'm especially heartened by the
21   fact that the utilities have arborists on their staff or
22   as consultants and that forestry professionals were
23   involved in the process.  I like what you said about the
24   waiver.  I think we need to get the word out to
25   municipalities so that they understand how that works

 1   because I have a feeling there may be people who don't
 2   understand that part of the process and I think that
 3   helps.
 4               Our number one concern is reliability.  I
 5   think that I can also understand the concerns of New
 6   Jerseyans, the tree should not be cut down without some
 7   evaluation of the aesthetics.  I know that none of these
 8   individuals are looking for a blackout.  That's not the
 9   issue.
10               But having said this, I hope that within the
11   three months we will take a look at the rules, see what
12   we need to come up with a modification and further
13   balance the tree cutting.  I am not opposed to having
14   stakeholder meetings.  I think it would be a good thing
15   and also public relations materials, training materials
16   sent out to municipalities so they understand the
17   process.  I look forward to getting a report in
18   three months.
19               PRESIDENT FOX:  Thank you.
20               COMMISSIONER BUTLER:  All I wanted to add is
21   I was also glad to be reminded of the process that we
22   took on this.  And, in fact, there were meetings,
23   stakeholder meetings, public meetings on this prior to
24   us getting to this point in time.  It's unfortunate that
25   everyone couldn't be comfortable with these rules.  The

 1   reality that I see here is that we cannot be without
 2   rules.  Because if we are without rules and we don't
 3   approve this set of rules which is before us today, then
 4   anything can happen and clear cutting can happen in
 5   areas where that would be a real tragedy.
 6               So we need rules in place and I'm glad to
 7   hear that we can do a shortened process, three months,
 8   six months, with other components perhaps, we can get to
 9   a point where we can amend these rules and make it so
10   that the maximum number of people are comfortable with
11   them.  We're never going to get everyone comfortable
12   with them, but we will try our best to get the maximum
13   number of people comfortable them.
14               As Commissioner Bator said and my other
15   colleagues have said, we have to be responsible for
16   reliability of the system and as much as we all love
17   trees that trees and electric transmission lines do not
18   mix.
19               MS. WYNER:  They don't love each other.
20               COMMISSIONER BUTLER:  They don't love each
21   other.  Right.
22               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  One more thing if
23   I may, Jeanne.
24               I certainly agree that reliability is number
25   one.  I mean we have to insure the fact that when people

 1   turn the light switch on, they are going to have lights.
 2   That's the number one priority.  I also think, as I
 3   indicated before without beating a dead horse here, that
 4   it's important for us to expeditiously move through the
 5   process because my concern is that I think we have to
 6   demonstrate that this board can move through the process
 7   in an expeditious way and come out with -- and we're not
 8   going to satisfy everybody -- but come out with
 9   something hopefully that is acceptable to a good number
10   of folks.  Because if not, my concern is that
11   legislatively -- and you know when politicians get
12   involved in things -- certain things may be forced upon
13   this board from a legislative perspective that may not
14   insure the reliability of power.  And that's what we
15   want to avoid.  We can move, we can do it, we can
16   correct it without the legislative process getting
17   involved.
18               PRESIDENT FOX:  I have a side remark that I
19   will make that later to you.
20               MS. WYNER:  I just want to add as to the
21   69 kV lines that was brought up in Bergen, specifically
22   for Rockland Electric, and we have spoken to them and we
23   have told them that it is in our judgment, the staff
24   judgment, and pursuant to the rules, these lines do not
25   exceed -- you know, the rules specifically say exceeding

 1   69 kV.  So as far as we're concerned, these do not fall
 2   under the transmission regulations and we have made that
 3   very clear to Rockland Electric and we're working with
 4   them so that message can go out to the residents in that
 5   community.
 6               PRESIDENT FOX:  I have a question for you or
 7   Ken.
 8               Do we have -- we have the distribution rules
 9   and then we have the transmission rules.  Are we just
10   doing this exemption waiver thing for the transmission
11   part or for both?
12               MS. WYNER:  Currently, that's for the
13   transmission.  I think we don't have a problem with the
14   distribution.  Specifically, it's concern as I
15   understand it, it's with trees in transmission area --
16               PRESIDENT FOX:  So we're talking about the
17   over 69 kV.  There are concerns if a municipality comes
18   in with over 69 kVs.
19               MS. WYNER:  And not only that, it's
20   homeowners that have been concerned with the
21   right-of-ways in back of their homes.
22               PRESIDENT FOX:  I just wanted to clarify
23   we're only doing transmission.
24               MS. WYNER:  It's transmission
25   specifically --

 1               PRESIDENT FOX:  The utilities will be
 2   allowed to move ahead with the distribution.
 3               MS. WYNER:  Yes.  Except where in Rockland
 4   Electric where I think they were interpreting 69 kV as
 5   transmission.  And we went back and we looked at the
 6   rules and the rule definition was exceeding 69 kV.
 7               MR. WARREN:  I think it might be good for a
 8   clarification.  When you talk about waivers or
 9   exemptions, first of all, the exemptions would come as
10   based upon the EDC requesting an exemption based upon
11   exigent circumstances.
12               PRESIDENT FOX:  Okay.  So the exemption is
13   by the electric distribution company.
14               MR. WARREN:  That's correct.  That's one
15   concept you should understand.
16               The other one is when we talk about
17   curtailing any type of activities on a transmission
18   right-of-way, we have like a four-year cycle where we
19   call for all this work being done and on a pro-rata
20   basis.
21               So in 2008 the utilities expect to clear
22   one-quarter of their service territory which includes
23   distribution and transmission.  So I think care should
24   be taken to see that we don't put them in a situation
25   where we're asking them to do a disproportionate amount

 1   of work in a disproportionate amount of time.
 2               PRESIDENT FOX:  Which is why we want do this
 3   proceeding quicker.
 4               MS. WYNER:  Absolutely.
 5               PRESIDENT FOX:  Okay.  Anything else on
 6   this?
 7               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Thank you.
 8               PRESIDENT FOX:  So what we're voting on is
 9   adopting these regulations as final, with an addendum
10   that for transmission lines if there are exemption
11   requests in, that there -- we would ask the utilities
12   not to cut those trees, unless they can demonstrate to
13   us before they cut them that there's an emergency
14   situation that we think is, in fact, an emergency
15   situation.  Correct?
16               MS. WYNER:  Well, I think that's one avenue.
17   I think we were actually thinking that we could be
18   working with the utilities pursuant to the rules as they
19   currently are and especially since they have a four-year
20   contract.  They don't have to start cutting immediately.
21   We have a three-month period where things can be maybe
22   deferred without an impact on reliability.
23               PRESIDENT FOX:  But still if there's an
24   emergency situation -- obviously, if there's an
25   emergency situation where we had contacts would know

 1   about it, but I want to make sure that you might recall
 2   and you were here, but I distinctly remember having a
 3   hearing about four years ago when I went nuts on this
 4   particular utility company person sitting right there
 5   because we had a call in and there was a disagreement
 6   and we told them in the morning not to cut those trees,
 7   and I got two other commissioners in here to do an
 8   emergency hearing, and by the time they were sitting
 9   down here, five hours later we got -- it was moot.  They
10   called in an additional crew, and they cut the trees
11   down, and I lambasted that utility executive.  That
12   should not happen again.
13               So we need a working relationship, and I
14   think we have a pretty good one with the utilities that
15   they let us know and they don't do anything stupid.
16               SECRETARY IZZO:  On the motion to approve
17   staff's recommendation,
18               Commissioner Butler?
19               COMMISSIONER BUTLER:  Yes.
20               SECRETARY IZZO:  Commissioner Fiordaliso?
21               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Yes.  And in the
22   order so I understand, is it going to be in the order or
23   is there going to be a separate stipulation that we're
24   going to continue this process?
25               SECRETARY IZZO:  We generally don't have

 1   orders with rules.  I don't know if we'll treat this
 2   differently.
 3               MS. WYNER:  Just approving rules that have
 4   been promulgated and going through the entire process,
 5   you're approving those.  I think we might want to work
 6   out a secretary letter.
 7               PRESIDENT FOX:  We need a communication
 8   that's either a secretary's letter or maybe a director's
 9   letter or something that we have that's available to the
10   utilities.
11               MS. WYNER:  That should go to the utilities
12   that makes it very clear and we will put in there -- I
13   understand the concern with the three-month process.  We
14   have every intent to get things to you during that time
15   period.
16               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Okay.  Yes.
17               SECRETARY IZZO:  Commissioner Bator?
18               COMMISSIONER BATOR:  Yes.
19               SECRETARY IZZO:  President Fox?
20               PRESIDENT FOX:  Yes.
21               (Whereupon recommendation of staff was
22   approved.)
23               PRESIDENT FOX:  Thank you for that
24   clarification.
25               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Sometimes things

 1   fall by the way so I don't want that to happen.
 2               SECRETARY IZZO:  Thank you, Commissioner.
 3               PRESIDENT FOX:  It would be in the minutes.
 4               Okay.  Is there anything else to come before
 5   us?
 6               SECRETARY IZZO:  No.
 7               PRESIDENT FOX:  Motion to --
 8               SECRETARY IZZO:  -- adjourn.
 9               COMMISSIONER BUTLER:  First.
10               COMMISSIONER FIORDALISO:  Second.
11               SECRETARY IZZO:  All in favor?
12               (Whereas, all parties voted aye and the
13   meeting was adjourned.)
14               (Item 2B - Energy Concluded.)

 1                          CERTIFICATE
 3               I, Lorin Thompson, a Notary Public and
 4   Shorthand Reporter of the State of New Jersey, do hereby
 5   certify as follows:
 6               I DO FURTHER CERTIFY that the foregoing is a
 7   true and accurate transcript of the testimony as taken
 8   stenographically by and before me at the time, place and
 9   on the date hereinbefore set forth.
10               I DO FURTHER CERTIFY that I am neither a
11   relative nor employee nor attorney nor counsel of any of
12   the parties to this action, and that I am neither a
13   relative nor employee of such attorney or counsel, and
14   that I am not financially interested in the action.
19   ________________________________________
     Notary Public of the State of New Jersey
20   My commission expires July 26, 2011
           Dated:  February 8, 2008