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FirstEnergy to increase power-line tree-trimming

By Staff, wire reports

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- FirstEnergy is ramping up tree-trimming activities in West Virginia this year, after the Public Service Commission ordered utilities to come up with a plan do so.

FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers said $44 million has been budgeted for the utility's vegetation management program, up $14 million from 2012.

The total includes $34 million in 34 counties served by Mon Power and $10 million in Potomac Edison's service area in the Eastern Panhandle.

Trees along more than 1,600 miles of electric lines have been trimmed by contractors so far. Another 2,400 miles will be trimmed by the end of the year, Meyers told The Exponent Telegram.

In January, the PSC ordered all electric utilities to submit plans to trim vegetation along distribution and transmission lines. The companies also must submit proposed rate recoveries for the increased costs associated with the trimming programs.

"The commission is suggesting a more comprehensive plan is appropriate," PSC spokeswoman Susan Small told the newspaper.

Small said that the plans are due July 23.

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, both subsidiaries of American Electric Power, submitted their increased right-of-way maintenance plans to the PSC. The companies said they would spend $58 million on the increased tree-trimming program, up from less than $12 million.

The AEP subsidiaries also asked the PSC for a rate increase to cover the increased maintenance costs. Customers would see their bills increase by between 0.1 and 3.8 percent under the AEP proposal; a resident customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month would face an increase of 2.5 percent.

It was not clear Monday if FirstEnergy was asking for a rate increase to cover any increased tree-trimming coverage.

The PSC ordered utilities to come up with a plan after last summer's derecho windstorm, which toppled trees onto power lines throughout West Virginia. Some customers were left without power for two weeks or more during a heat wave that neared 100 degrees for several days.


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