Requires any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior notice to the local legislative body and the residents of the affected community and to hold a public meeting prior to implementation of such plan.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the general municipal law, in relation to authorizing the local legislative body of a municipality located in the county of Westchester to require any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior notice to the local legislative body and the residents of the affected community and to hold a public meeting prior to implementation of such plan
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill amends the general municipal law by adding a new subdivision 3 to empower the local legislative body of any county, city, town or village within the County of Westchester to enact a local law, rule or regulation to require any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan that specifically includes the trimming or cutting of trees and/or the elimination of overgrown vegetation in any county, city, town or village shall give 60 days' notice prior to such activity to the community affected thereby. The involved utility company shall hold a public meeting within the affected community at least 30 days prior to the implementation of such plan or activity, providing the residents of such community with the details of such trimming, cutting, and/or vegetation management plan, and providing residents with an opportunity to be heard with respect to such plan.
The legislation also allows for a utility company to not notify or hold public hearing in case of an emergency situation deemed to be a threat to public safety and welfare.
The legislation also sets forth penalties if any utility fails to notify and/or hold public hearing will be subject to a civil penalty which will result in a fine up to $5,000 for the first violation and up to $10,000 for two or more violations within a five year period.
This Section also states that these provisions shall not apply to any utility company that operates an interstate natural gas pipeline that is subject to the jurisdiction of the federal energy regulatory commission.
Section 2 is the immediate effective date.
Consistently for several years, Consolidated Edison, a utility regulated by the State's Public Service Department, as well as other utility companies in New York State, has repeatedly entered the process of what they deem to be necessary tree removal due to the proximity of overgrown trees near power lines in residential areas of Westchester County. However, many of the residents in communities of Yonkers, Greenburgh and Mt. Pleasant, as well as many others, have been dissatisfied with the process from its incipiency. Many argued that far too many trees were
removed yielding various consequences that could have been avoided had there been a mechanism for public input especially regarding site selection and the extent of the trimming.
These consequences include the creation of naked areas that leave sudden drop offs as well as the spread of branches and wood chips making child friendly areas potentially harmful. Additionally, the removal of trees along the New York State Thruway and Sprain Brook Parkway has caused an increase in noise and artificial light entering homes throughout the affected residential areas.
According to members of local environmental conservation groups, the trees in many of these affected areas served as protections to residents from natural processes such as flooding and erosion, which can lead to property damage and personal injury. Several homes have already experienced some of these results as water has run into basements and increased wind speeds have caused damage to several houses.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2010 - S.7962-C - Passed Senate
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None to the State.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This bill will take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1632 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE January 10, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sens. STEWART-COUSINS, OPPENHEIMER -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Local Government AN ACT to amend the general municipal law, in relation to authorizing the local legislative body of a municipality located in the county of Westchester to require any utility company involved in a vegetation management plan to give prior notice to the local legislative body and the residents of the affected community and to hold a public meeting prior to implementation of such plan THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Section 96-b of the general municipal law is amended by adding a new subdivision 3 to read as follows: 3. THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY OF ANY COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR VILLAGE LOCATED IN THE COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER IS HEREBY EMPOWERED TO ENACT A LOCAL LAW, RULE OR REGULATION CONTAINING THE FOLLOWING PROVISIONS: A. ANY UTILITY COMPANY INVOLVED IN A VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PLAN THAT SPECIFICALLY INCLUDES THE CUTTING, TRIMMING AND/OR REMOVAL OF TREES IN ANY COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR VILLAGE SHALL GIVE SIXTY DAYS NOTICE PRIOR TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SUCH ACTIVITY TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE COMMUNITY AFFECTED THEREBY. NO SUCH ACTIVITY SHALL BE COMMENCED UNTIL AFTER SUCH UTILITY COMPANY HAS HELD A PUBLIC MEETING IN RELATION THERETO AT LEAST THIRTY DAYS PRIOR, AT WHICH THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY AND THE RESIDENTS OF SUCH AFFECTED COMMUNITY SHALL BE PROVIDED WITH THE DETAILS OF SUCH TRIMMING, CUTTING, REMOVAL AND/OR VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PLAN AND WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD ON SUCH MATTERS; B. IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY SITUATION DEEMED TO BE A THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY AND WELFARE, SUCH UTILITY COMPANY SHALL NOT BE REQUIRED TO GIVE NOTICE OR TO HOLD A PUBLIC MEETING PRIOR TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SUCH A VEGETATION MANAGEMENT PLAN; ANDEXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD04599-01-1 S. 1632 2
C. ANY UTILITY COMPANY THAT VIOLATES THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION SHALL BE LIABLE TO A CIVIL PENALTY WHICH SHALL RESULT IN A FINE OF UP TO FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A FIRST TIME VIOLATION AND UP TO TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR TWO OR MORE VIOLATIONS INCURRED WITHIN A FIVE YEAR PERIOD. SUCH MONEYS COLLECTED PURSUANT TO THIS PARAGRAPH SHALL BE DEPOSITED INTO AN ACCOUNT MAINTAINED BY THE LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY OF THE AFFECTED LOCALITY. SUCH LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY SHALL ESTABLISH SUCH ACCOUNT, TO BE KNOWN AS THE TREE CONSERVATION FUND, FOR THE RECEIPT OF ALL SUCH MONEYS, AND SAID MONEYS SHALL BE UTILIZED BY SUCH LOCAL LEGISLATIVE BODY EXCLUSIVELY TO DEVELOP, IMPLEMENT AND/OR MAINTAIN TREE CONSERVATION PROJECTS WITHIN THE AFFECTED LOCALITY. D. THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SUBDIVISION SHALL NOT APPLY TO ANY UTILITY COMPANY THAT OPERATES AN INTERSTATE NATURAL GAS PIPELINE THAT IS SUBJECT TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.