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Letter: Federal Report Suggests a More Reasonable Tree Plan for NSTAR

This letter was submitted by a Needham resident.

This June, NSTAR left  “Courtesy Notifications” on doors of Needham residents who abut the transmission line along the commuter rail tracks citing "strict federal and state standards mandate utilities manage vegetation along transmission lines" driving the new and aggressive policy to clear cut trees within the right-of-way along the line.

The Needham Town Hall (www.needhamma.gov) linked to a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) on “Transmission Facility Outages During the Northeast Snowstorm of October 29-30, 2011.” One of the primary findings of that report is that lines like Needham’s are not covered by federal or state mandates. Because utilities had argued "the costs of expanded applicability to sub-200 kV facilities could outweigh the benefits," a line like the Needham one  “would not be covered by any federal or state vegetation management standard.”

Residents who received NSTAR’s June brochure take NSTAR’s representations with more than a grain of salt.

Due to past pruning and trimming protocols used by Boston Edison over the years, but abandoned by NSTAR in recent years, the Needham transmission line was unaffected during the October 2011 storm, route: {:controller=>"articles", :action=>"show", :id=>"storm-keeps-officials-busy"} -->. That storm’s “unprecedented snowfall” fell on trees heavy with leaves due to an unusually dry September and October and onto ground that had been saturated by , implemented in other towns and now hovering over Needham, fails to take into account the limitations FERC and NERC staff recognize. NSTAR was intent on clear cutting without addressing the exact location of its right-of-way back in June and only began surveying after town officials and state representatives

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