TVA tree trimming program criticized during board meeting

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) aggressive tree-trimming program came under attack during an April 26 TVA board of directors meeting in Greeneville, Tenn.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, which was webcast, a Tennessee attorney and other speakers attacked the current tree-trimming program as excessive. Various speakers said TVA was cutting trees of no more than 15-feet tall even if they were not touching power lines. Critics said that TVA’s old vegetation control program was working well.

One resident noted that TVA ratepayers have started an online petition against the current TVA policy with the website, www.change.org.

“The TVA has started to take a very aggressive approach to the clearing of vegetation throughout the width and length of their transmission line easements for nearly 16,000 miles through the seven states served,” according to the online petition. “They have never cleared trees and vegetation to the full extent of their easements in the past, and they tout a 99.999% reliability record.”

The petition goes on to say, “While we share TVA’s concerns about outages, safety dangers, and fires, their prior easement maintenance policies avoided all three, while respecting the rights of the property owners.”

But CEO Tom Kilgore and other officials for the federal utility defended TVA’s efforts, saying it has been central to helping the TVA system attain a reliability record of better than 99% over the past 12 years.

“Eventually, the trees will have to come out from under the lines,” Kilgore said in a press conference following the meeting.

“They don’t have to touch the lines” to cause problems, he added.

TVA officials also said relatively few customers affected by the trimming have complained about the policy.

During recent times the TVA grid has endured a series of tornadoes and other severe storms that have hammered the Southeast, according to the TVA president’s report, which was filed in connection with the meeting.

TVA also now has real-time monitoring of its transmission system.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.