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Results not yet clear for costly W.Va. tree-trimming

Photo submitted to Exponent Telegram The above photos show one of FirstEnergy’s right of ways in West Virginia before and after the additional tree-trimming ordered last year by the state Public Service Commission.
Photo submitted to Exponent Telegram
The above photos show one of FirstEnergy’s right of ways in West Virginia before and after the additional tree-trimming ordered last year by the state Public Service Commission.

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Officials are hoping FirstEnergy’s more extensive vegetation-clearing efforts in West Virginia will eventually help mitigate the kinds of outages caused by summer storms.

In April 2014, the West Virginia Public Service Commission ordered FirstEnergy to implement an expanded vegetation management program in its Mon Power and Potomac Edison service areas.

To pay for the program, the commission ultimately approved a surcharge that allows the companies to recover approximately $48 million annually. The surcharge will be adjusted up or down each year depending on the demonstrated costs of the vegetation management, with the next filing for adjustment scheduled for September.

The program will have a five-year ramp-up period needed to conduct the more extensive tree-trimming across the Mon Power and Potomac Edison territories. In 2019, officials will look at establishing a four-year cycle for maintaining the additional clearing specified by the program.

FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers said crews will clear the rights of way for roughly 4,500 miles of both distribution and transmission lines in West Virginia in 2015.

“The idea is to do a couple things,” Meyers said. “The idea is to help prevent outages from occurring in the first place, but also, when they do occur, we want to be able to shorten the duration of the outages, and the way that’s done is by having rights of way that are easy and accessible for crews to get into…

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