No tree left behind

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UPDATED 8/20/2005 with contact information for Jason Aamodt, the attorney in the class-action lawsuit against AEP/PSO.

Tonight's meeting regarding AEP/PSO's "vegetation management" policy drew about 200 homeowners to the Whiteside Park gym. There was a little personal irony in the locale -- two years ago, in the midst of a two-day-long power outage, we held my son's seventh birthday party in that same gym, a welcome relief from the lack of air conditioning at home.

We heard from some of the homeowners who organized the meeting, the attorney representing homeowners in a class action lawsuit regarding AEP/PSO's tree-trimming policy, Mayor Bill LaFortune, AEP/PSO's local distribution manager, a spokesman for the Corporation Commission, and AEP/PSO's local forestry supervisor.

That last speaker seems to be the key person to contact if you're having a problem with tree-trimming crews overstepping their bounds, doing damage to your property, refusing to clean up, or causing other problems. Here is his contact info:

Richard Bewley
Certified Arborist
Forestry Supervisor
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
212 E 6th St
Tulsa OK 74119-1295

work: 918-599-2636
fax: 918-599-2300
cell: 918-231-0039
rdbewley@aep.com

There seem to be two factors contributing to the wanton removal and improper cutting back of trees by AEP/PSO -- AEP/PSO's interpretation of a Corporation Commission rule, and AEP/PSO's management of their tree-removal subcontractor, Asplundh.

(1) The Corporation Commission proposed and the Legislature approved a rule requiring vegetation management on a four-year cycle, meaning that at least once every four years, every wire would be checked and kept clear from vegetation. AEP/PSO has taken that rule and decided to trim every tree so that it will be at least four years until it could grow back into the lines. In most cases, that means removal if it's in the utility's easement. Everyone besides AEP/PSO thinks the utility has misinterpreted the rule in a way that reduces its costs.

(2) Asplundh, AEP/PSO's tree-trimming contractor, has 145 work crews operating in the Tulsa area. These are supervised by 8 AEP/PSO foresters (5 of whom are certified arborists) -- these 8 foresters audit the work done by the 145 crews. The Mayor said that he observed trees trimmed carefully on one block then butchered the next block over. Quality seems to vary widely from crew to crew, and with only eight overseers, it would be hard to catch a crew that is doing a poor job. Now that we know who is in charge of vegetation management, homeowners can call Mr. Bewley to report any problems with tree-trimming crews.

(There were complaints that in some of Asplundh's crews, none of the workers spoke English, making it impossible for homeowners to communicate their concerns to the crew, and there was some speculation about the legal status of many of the workers.)

Know your rights regarding tree removal, and if the work crew isn't respecting your rights, call Mr. Bewley and let him know.

Meanwhile, there is a class-action lawsuit pending against AEP/PSO. The attorney, Jason Aamodt, said that they would seek an agreement with AEP/PSO for a 30-day moratorium on tree removal to prevent further destruction of our urban forest while these issues are worked out.

Mr. Aamodt is collecting complaints about AEP/PSO's tree trimming and removal. His contact information:

Jason Aamodt
Miller Keffer Bullock Pedigo
222 South Kenosha Avenue
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74120
(918) 584-2001
(918) 743-6689
jaamodt@mkblaw.net

There was some discussion of burying the lines. AEP/PSO has a pilot program in east Tulsa, using directional boring to minimize disturbance of the surface. They're spending about $1 million on it. It's estimated to cost $600,000 per mile to put a power line underground. AEP/PSO has proposed to the Corporation Commission that they bury the lines, but of course they've also proposed the corresponding rate hikes to cover the cost.

We've already had an Asplundh crew in our backyard, last year, and I think we had one of the better ones. They were careful in their trimming, only removed trees that really needed to go, and they were kind enough to trim some branches around the drop to our house, even though they aren't required to do that. We were sorry to lose the shade -- even more sorry this year, as the weeds love the extra sunlight -- but the trees we lost were fast-growing volunteers: an elm and a couple of hackberry trees. If AEP/PSO had enough arborists to keep a closer eye on the subcontractor, and if it were easier for customers to register complaints, it would go a long way toward reducing ill-will.

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I attended the tree trimming meeting that was hosted by the Oakview Estates Neighborhood Association at the Whiteside Park Recreation Center. I estimate the attendance at 150-200 concerned homeowners at last night's meeting. Numerous city officials wer... Read More

I attended the tree trimming meeting that was hosted by the Oakview Estates Neighborhood Association at the Whiteside Park Recreation Center. I estimate the attendance at 150-200 concerned homeowners at last night's meeting. Numerous city officials wer... Read More

1 Comments

Ray Author Profile Page said:

First, go to the public library. There check out a book on the planting and / or pruning trees. If you love your tree so much, you should care for it. Walk down the street and you see trees with trunks that split into two branches less than six feet of the ground. Things like this are a disaster waiting to happen when the tree matures. It is your property and your responsibility. I have to pay higher electric bills so PSO can trim your tree or fix damaged lines. Remember that little tree planted three feet from your house or a power lines is too close. In twenty years you will see you should have planted it ten or fifteen feet or more away.

Read a book and Save a tree!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 16, 2005 11:00 PM.

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