September 05, 2007
SUBCHAPTER [8.] 9. Vegetation Management [(Tree trimming) standards]
14:5-[8.1] 9.1 Purpose and scope
This subchapter sets forth requirements that [electric public utilities] EDCs shall follow in managing vegetation in proximity to an energized conductor in order to ensure public safety and the efficient and reliable supply of electric power.
14:5-[8.2] 9.2 Definitions
The following words and terms, when used in this subchapter, shall have the following meaning unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. Additional definitions that apply to this chapter can be found at N.J.A.C. 14:3-1.1:
. . .
"Agricultural crop" means a non-woody cash crop, which can be used as a food and is sold for money.
. . .
"Distribution line" means a primary electric voltage line, wire or cable including supporting structures and appurtenant facilities, which delivers electricity from transformation points on the transmission system to points of connection at a customer's premises, that would not be considered a transmission line as set forth in [ N.J.A.C. 14:5-8.2] this section.
["Electric public utility" means a public utility, as that term is defined in N.J.S.A. 48:2-13, that transmits and distributes electricity to end users within New Jersey.]
"Electric utility arborist" means a person that has been certified as a Utility Specialist by the International Society of Arboriculture and, in addition, meets [one or more of ]the following:
1. The person is certified as a Tree Expert by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Board of Tree Experts; [or] and
2. (No change.)
. . .
"Inactive transmission line corridor" means that unused part of the right of way that does not have transmission towers or transmission lines overhead.
"Major event" means any of the following:
1.-3. (No change.)
4. When mutual aid is provided to another EDC or utility, the assisting EDC may apply to the Board for permission to exclude its sustained interruptions from its Customer Average Interruption Duration Index (CAIDI) and System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI), as defined under N.J.A.C. 14:5-[7.2] 1.2, Calculations. Interruptions occurring during a major event in one or more operating areas shall not be included in the EDC's CAIDI and SAIFI calculations of those affected operating area(s). However, interruption data for major events shall be collected, according to the reporting requirements outlined in N.J.A.C. 14:5-[7.9] 8.8.
. . .
"Tree" means a tall perennial woody plant with a main trunk and branches forming a distinct elevated crown. "Vegetation" means trees and other plants.
. . .
["Tree" means a tall perennial woody plant with a main trunk and branches forming a distinct elevated crown.]
"Vegetation manager" or "VM" means an electric utility arborist.
"Wire zone" means the land located directly under the widest portion of a transmission line. [The] For a horizontal transmission line, the wire zone is bounded on each side by a location on the ground that is directly under the outermost transmission wire[.] or the transmission tower, whichever is wider. For a vertical transmission array, the wire zone shall be the minimum safe distance specified in the 2007 National Electric Safety Code, §232 to §235, which is incorporated herein by reference and available at standards.ieee.org/nesc/, that will allow maintenance on the wires.
. . .
14:5-[8.3] 9.3 General provisions
(a) An [electric public utility] EDC shall ensure that vegetation management is conducted in accordance with this subchapter on any energized conductors of 600 volts and higher, whether for distribution or transmission, that the electric public utility owns, in whole or in part.
(b) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall obtain, and shall ensure that its contractors obtain, all required permits and licenses prior to commencement of vegetation management.
(c) An [electric public utility] EDC that utilizes chemical or biological agents in vegetation management shall comply with any laws or regulations governing the use of those biological and chemical agents.
(d) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall employ a vegetation manager [(VM)], who is an electric utility arborist, as defined at N.J.A.C. 14:5-[8.2]9.2. The VM shall be a utility employee, not a contractor. The electric public utility shall provide the VM with the authority and the resources to administer all aspects of the utility's vegetation management program, and the VM shall ensure that the electric public utility complies with this subchapter. The VM's name and contact information shall be posted on the electric utility's web site and shall be included on all notifications provided pursuant to the notice requirements of N.J.A.C. 14:5-[8.7]9.7.
(e) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall ensure that all contractors hired to perform vegetation management inform their workers of all applicable Federal and [,]State[; county, and municipal] laws, rules or regulations that apply to the work performed under this subchapter. The [electric utility] EDC shall also ensure that all contractors comply with each applicable requirement of this subchapter and all other applicable law.
(f) An [electric public utility] EDC that performs vegetation management at the request of a municipality or government agency, other than vegetation management required under this subchapter, may require the requesting party to pay any incremental cost above the [electric public utility's] EDC's cost to perform the vegetation management required by this subchapter. An [electric public utility] EDC shall not perform such additional vegetation management if the additional vegetation management would decrease the reliability or safety of an energized conductor.
(g) Upon a written request from a municipality, an [electric public utility] EDC may, but is not required to, temporarily suspend compliance with one or more of the vegetation management requirements of this subchapter, within the following limits:
1.-2. (No change.)
3. The [electric public utility] EDC shall not suspend compliance with any requirement if the suspension would result in danger to the public; and
4. If the suspension results in additional costs to the [electric public utility] EDC due to lack of tree trimming or other vegetation management, the municipality shall reimburse the electric public utility for these costs.
(h) An [electric public utility] EDC may petition the Board for recovery of the distribution and transmission portion of vegetation management program costs required under this subchapter in future base rate proceedings.
(i) Upon [a utility's] an EDC's receiving notice of, or having actual knowledge of, any dead, rotten, or diseased vegetation, which overhangs, leans toward, or may fall into an energized conductor, that is part of its primary distribution or transmission system and represents a safety hazard, the [electric public utility] EDC shall promptly remove or remedy the potential safety concern as promptly as possible. [If removal of the vegetation requires the electric public utility to access or cross property for which it does not hold an easement or other legal authorization, the electric public utility shall take all reasonable steps to obtain any necessary permission from the property owner and remove or remedy the potential safety concern as promptly as possible.] In response to a major event, the utility will only be required to remedy the potentially dangerous condition.
(j) EDCs shall perform vegetation management on a pro rata basis as identified in N.J.A.C. 14:5-9.4(b) to achieve full compliance by December 18, 2010.
14:5-[8.4] 9.4 Maintenance cycle
(a) An [electric public utility] EDC shall perform an annual visual inspection of all energized transmission conductors, to determine whether vegetation management is needed. The visual inspection may be performed from the ground except in cases where the conductor is not visible from the ground. The [electric public utility] EDC shall take into account the height of the vegetation and the distance of the vegetation from the energized conductor, in determining whether vegetation management is needed.
i. For the purposes of (a) above, "energized transmission conductors" means a transmission line with an electric current.
(b) An [electric public utility] EDC shall perform vegetation management on vegetation that is close enough to pose a threat to its energized conductors at least once every four years.
(c) In addition to the maintenance required in (b) above, if an [electric public utility] EDC becomes aware either through notification or during the inspections required under (a) above or at any other time, of any vegetation close enough to pose a threat to its energized conductor, which is likely to affect reliability or safety prior to the next required vegetation management activity, the electric utility shall ensure that necessary vegetation management is promptly performed as required under N.J.A.C. 14:5-[8.5]9.5.
14:5-[8.5] 9.5 Technical standards for vegetation management
(a) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall ensure that vegetation management conducted on its energized conductors is performed in accordance with the standards and accepted procedures set forth in the following publications, which are incorporated herein by reference including amendments and supplements thereto:
1.-9. (No change.)
(b) (No change.)
(c) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall develop its own vegetation management standards and guidelines, which shall be consistent with this subchapter. In developing these standards and guidelines, a utility shall prioritize work based upon:
1.-3. (No change.)
(d) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall provide a copy of [their] its vegetation management standards and guidelines to the Board [by January 17, 2007] as a chapter in the Annual System Performance Report. If an [electric public utility] EDC makes a change in its vegetation management standards and guidelines, the utility shall provide Board staff with a copy of the change no later than 30 days prior to implementing the change.
(e) Each [electric public utility's] EDC's vegetation management standards and guidelines shall cover, at a minimum, all of the following activities:
1.-6. (No change.)
(f) Among the factors the [electric utility] EDC shall consider in determining the extent of vegetation management to be performed at a particular site are:
1.-5. (No change.)
(g) The [electric public utility] EDC shall remove all trimmings and cut vegetation resulting from vegetation management activities that are part of the utility's regular maintenance cycle, within five business days after the vegetation was cut, except if:
[1.] The [electric public utility] EDC obtains [written] consent to leave the trimmings or cut vegetation, from the owner of the property upon which the trimmings or cut vegetation are located.[; or]
[2. The vegetation management activities are performed as a direct result of a major event, in which case the electric public utility shall remove the trimmings and cut vegetation that was cut or trimmed as part of its vegetation management activities, after the conclusion of the major event.]
14:5-[8.6] 9.6 Transmission line vegetation management
(a) In addition to the other requirements of this subchapter, transmission lines, as defined at N.J.A.C. 14:5-[8.2] 9.2, are subject to the requirements in this section.
(b) An [electric public utility] EDC shall meet the requirements of the National Electric Safety Code (C-2 2002) for minimum clearances between any transmission line and the closest vegetation beneath it.
(c) (No change.) (c) If a transmission line is upgraded or newly constructed after December 18, 2006, the width of the clearing under the transmission line shall meet the minimum requirements of the National Electrical Safety Code (C-2 2002).
(d) An [electric public utility] EDC may request an exemption from (b) and (c) above based upon exigent circumstances.
(e) In addition to meeting the other requirements in this section, each [electric public utility] EDC shall ensure that the following requirements for transmission lines are met, except for those instances set forth in (f) below:
1. Clearing under transmission lines shall be wide enough within the EDC's right of way so that no vegetation or parts of vegetation will grow or fall into the transmission lines;
2. An [electric public utility] EDC shall not allow any vegetation [that grows] taller than 15 feet at maturity to grow anywhere within a transmission line right of way;
3. The preferred growth in a wire zone shall be grasses or a low-growing compatible shrub scrub plant community to obtain a meadow effect where possible. An [electric public utility] EDC shall not allow woody plants that naturally mature above three feet tall to grow in the wire zone[without prior notice and inspection by the electric public utility vegetation manager];
4. The [electric public utility] EDC shall not allow any woody plant species that naturally matures above 15 feet to grow in the border zone. Mature height may be determined from a reliable text authorities either listed in, or equivalent to those listed in N.J.A.C. 14:5-[8.5(a)]9.5(a). Utilities shall provide this information on their web site or in a publication upon request by a ratepayer;
5.-6. (No change.)
7. Where an [electric public utility] EDC has cleared a right of way of vegetation and bare soil is exposed, the [utility] EDC shall comply with the soil erosion requirements of the applicable soil conservation district in order to prevent soil erosion. A list of the soil conservation districts in New Jersey may be found at [www.state.nj.us/agriculture/rural/natrsrc.htm] www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/anr/nrc/conservdistricts.html;
8. To the extent that any plant species identified as invasive and non-indigenous to New Jersey poses a threat to the maintenance of the right of way or a hazard to electrical transmission conductors, the [electric public utility] EDC shall make reasonable efforts to actively eliminate from the entire right of way the species identified as invasive and non-[indiginous] indigenous, see Snyder, David and Sylvan R. Kaufman, 2004[, from the entire right of way]. An overview of non-indigenous plant species in New Jersey. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry, Office of Natural Lands Management, Natural Heritage Program, Trenton, NJ (available at www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/natural/heritage/InvasiveReport.pdf, and incorporated by reference herein, including any supplements and amendments thereto). To do so, the [electric public utility] EDC shall use the best integrated vegetation management practices available and practical; and
9. Each year in the March billing cycle, or two months prior to the commencement of vegetation management work on a particular property, whichever is earlier, each [electric public utility] EDC shall [owners of land upon which the utility holds a right of way] advise customers of the requirements in this subsection, through a [separate] direct [mailing] notification.
(f) An EDC shall be permitted to leave trees and other woody vegetation within the transmission right of way, under any of the following conditions where:
1. The right-of-way document, easement, indenture, deed or other written land rights, executed before Jan 1, 2007, expressly permit vegetation to be located within the transmission right of way;
2. The slope of the topography exceeds 30 degrees and the transmission right of way is such that a tree or other vegetation at mature height will be more than 150 percent of the clearance requirements for an electrical path to ground set forth in the National Electric Safety Code, §232 to §235; or
3. Trees are located within an inactive transmission corridor and at mature height will be more than 150 percent of the clearance requirements for an electrical path to ground set forth in the National Electric Safety Code, §232 to §235.
[(e)] (g) For the purposes of this section, the mature height of woody and non-woody agricultural crops shall be determined in accordance with the publications listed in N.J.A.C. 14:5-[8.5(a)]9.5(a), or equivalent publications.
[(f)] (h) Each year, before June 1, the [electric public utility] EDC shall develop a schedule for transmission line vegetation management, which shall be included in the [electric public utility] EDC's annual system performance report as required by N.J.A.C. 14:5-8. The schedule shall:
1. List the transmission lines planned for vegetation management for the next four years in advance (one of the four-year cycles required at N.J.A.C. 14:5-[8.4(b)] 9.4(b));
2. (No change.)
3. Be distributed to affected municipalities by the [electric public utility] EDC.
14:5-[8.7] 9.7 Training, recordkeeping and reporting
(a) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall ensure that [all persons who] qualified OSHA and ANSI Z133 line clearance employees or contractors perform vegetation management for the [utility] EDC, whether employees or contractors, and are trained in the proper care of trees and other woody plants in order to provide safe, reliable electric service, are knowledgeable regarding safety practices and line clearance techniques [, and have demonstrated the ability to perform the work safely].
(b) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall ensure that its contractors shall keep a record of all personnel used by a contractor or the [utility] EDC to perform vegetation management for the [electric public utility] EDC, and the dates and types of training that each has received.
(c) The [electric public utility] EDC shall monitor and document all vegetation management and related activities. Documentation shall be retained for five years and shall include, but shall not be limited to: 1.-8. (No change.) (d) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall include a summary of the information required in (c) above about its vegetation management work during the past year, and planned activities for the following year in [an annual report] the Annual System Performance Report to be filed with the Board by May 31[st] of each year. This information shall include, at a minimum, the name of each municipality in which the [electric public utility] EDC conducted vegetation management during the preceding year, and all circuits affected.
14:5-[8.8] 9.8 Public notice of planned vegetation management activity
(a) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall make a diligent attempt to notify all municipal governments and property owners that may be affected by planned vegetation management activity on the EDC's distribution or transmission system. In addition, each EDC shall make a diligent attempt to notify all municipal governments and customers that may be affected by planned vegetation management activity on the EDC's distribution system. This requirement will be satisfied if the [electric public utility] EDC provides written notice to [affected property owners] those customers at least seven days, but not more than 45 days, prior to performing any vegetation management activity. [Notice]
(b) For distribution circuits, notice shall be provided by separate direct mailing, door hanger, or any other Board-approved method.
(c) For transmission circuits, notice shall be provided by the EDC initiating a separate direct mailing with a return receipt requested to verify a proper notification attempt, or any other Board-approved method.
(d) For vegetation management activity that is to be performed on transmission rights of way, notice shall be made by (a) and (c) above and through publication in the public notice of two newspapers that serve the area, within the timeframe set forth in (a) above.
[(b)] (e) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall maintain a record of the dates, [content,] locations and [addresses to] activities contained in the notices, which [all notices] were provided to the municipal government under (a) above for a period of five years after notices are sent.
[(c)] (f) [Each electric public utility] For municipal governments, each EDC [or its contractor] shall provide written notice of any pending vegetation management activities to a primary contact. For a municipality, the mayor, town clerk or other person or position mutually agreed upon shall be the primary contact. For other government entities and for public authorities, the primary contact shall be selected by mutual agreement between the [electric utility] EDC and the entity or authority.
[(d)] (g) An [electric public utility] EDC shall notify all municipalities and public authorities that may be affected by vegetation management activities. The notice shall be made in writing to the primary contact designated under [(c)] (f) above, at least two months in advance of the planned vegetation management. This notice shall include the planned dates and locations of the vegetation management. In addition, the notice of vegetation management shall be in a [form appropriate] manner sufficient to explain each [electric public utility] EDC's procedures and easement rights. The EDC shall provide a telephone number of the vegetation manager to enable questions to be answered.
14:5-[8.9] 9.9 Outreach programs
(a) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall conduct an annual public education program to inform its customers, as well as the municipalities and public agencies in the [electric public utility] EDC's service territory, of the importance of vegetation management, and of the [electric public utility] EDC's role and responsibility in managing vegetation near electric lines.
(b) (No change.)
(c) Each [electric public utility] EDC shall post its public education materials on its website.
14:5-[8.10] 9.10 Penalties
(a) Failure to comply with any provision of this subchapter shall subject the violator to penalties in accordance with the Board's regulatory and statutory authority. [No penalties would be imposed for violations of the subchapter for a period of six months from the initial date of enactment.]
(b) An [electric public utility] EDC that violates this subchapter may be subject to [fines] penalties of up to $ 100.00 per day per violation, for each day the violation occurs. The Board shall notify the [utility] EDC of the violation(s) in writing. Upon receipt of the written notice of violation, the [utility] EDC shall have five business days to correct the violation(s). Any failure to correct the violation shall subject the [utility] EDC to [fines] penalties of $ 100.00 per day for each violation, calculated from the day such written notice was received by the [electric public utility] EDC.
[(c) An electric public utility that violates this subchapter shall be liable for mitigating all costs incurred as the result of the violation.]
[(d)] (c) [Fines and costs] Penalties imposed under this subchapter are in addition to, not a replacement for, other fines and/or penalties that apply under Federal and State laws and regulations.
[(e)] (d) In determining the appropriate sanction for a violation of this subchapter, the Board shall consider the following criteria, and any other factors deemed appropriate and material to the electric public utility's failure to comply:
1.-3. (No change.)
4. The appropriateness of the [sanction or fine] penalty to the size of the company charged; [and]
5. Events judged to be beyond the violator's control[.]; and
6. Good faith efforts on the part of the EDC to resolve any violations of the requirements contained in this subchapter.