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Power companies get OK to trim trees

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Plans to keep West Virginia's power line rights-of-way clear continue to move forward, spurred by major recent weather events such as the derecho storm and Hurricane Sandy.

The state Public Service Commission approved plans by Appalachian Power, Wheeling Power and four smaller electric companies on Tuesday. Vegetation management program proposals submitted by Mon Power and Potomac Edison, both FirstEnergy affiliates, are pending before the commission.

The plans stem from several storms dating back to 2009, including the snows brought on by Sandy and the winds of the derecho, which left thousands of residents without power for days, causing inconveniences and millions of dollars worth of damage, according to a PSC statement.

In January 2013, the commission ordered all electric utility companies to submit proposals for a comprehensive vegetation-trimming program to maintain all rights-of-way, in an effort to improve electric reliability, according to the PSC.

The commission concluded that more work was needed than had been done in the past to make the utility systems more resistant to damage from vegetation and tree damage during those storms, Tuesday's PSC order stated.

American Electric Power, the parent company of Appalachian and Wheeling Power, is expected to increase its electric service reliability and lessen the impact and recovery time for service interruptions related to major weather events in the future, according to the order.

The commission will allow utility companies to recover some of the costs of the programs in the upcoming base rate cases for the companies. "[Comprehensive vegetation-trimming management plans] will cost money, but doing nothing, in our opinion, costs even more," the PSC order stated.

According to AEP's estimates, a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, would see an increase of $2.38 per month on electric bills with vegetation management plans implemented, according to the PSC order.

AEP serves more than 478,000 customers in West Virginia.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.comor 304-348-5113.


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