Thank heaven, the state Public Service Commission is acting against a West Virginia nightmare: ever-recurring outages of power, phone and cable service after storms.
This heavily wooded state is especially vulnerable to toppled trees that bring down lines. The problem is compounded because utilities have no legal authority to trim overhanging timber outside their rights of way. It's also compounded because some landowners won't let cutter crews touch their beloved trees.
Last summer's historic derecho left 700,000 West Virginia families, businesses, churches, agencies and other customers in long-lasting darkness. Repairs cost utilities about $180 million. It was a mess.
After the storm, the PSC launched an investigation to learn ways to curtail this menace. Now the regulatory agency has ordered the state's seven power utilities to draft master plans outlining ways to reduce tree fall damage.
The PSC order says West Virginia has many power lines "stretched up and down steep hillsides on narrow private rights of way" -- some of them so old they were "set by men with shovels using mules and horses to haul poles." It added: "Lines in those hard-to-trim areas remain in use today and ... are at greater risk from trees falling from outside the right of way."
We hope this crackdown reduces the severity of West Virginia blackouts after storms. Maybe the Legislature could change laws to mandate more trimming along rights of way. Families and businesses need better protection than they get today.