In order to avoid interruptions in electric service that overgrown or fallen vegetation can cause, electric companies use various methods to control or remove vegetation in a safe and environmentally conscious manner.
About Vegetation Management
To avoid the constant interruptions in electric service that overgrown or fallen vegetation can cause, electric companies use various methods to control or remove vegetation in a safe and environmentally conscious manner. These are called rights-of-way vegetation management programs. The goal of these programs is to provide safe transmission and distribution services and to minimize disruptions caused by trees and other vegetation, while maintaining a harmonious relationship with the environment. Properly maintained rights-of-way are essential to providing safety for utility workers and customers.
Memorandum of Understanding
After several years of negotiations, the electric power sector and federal land management agencies finalized an agreement to facilitate tree trimming and vegetation management near electric infrastructure on federal lands, an accord that will bolster efforts to ensure electric reliability, while protecting critical wildlife habitat.
Methods of Vegetation Management
There are several different ways of controlling vegetation around power line rights-of-way. These include both mechanical and chemical or herbicide methods.
While mechanical methods at first may seem the less harmful way to controlling vegetation, these methods, in fact, have many disadvantages. Cutting and mowing vegetation have the undesired effect of causing vegetation to grow back thicker and fuller, requiring repeated and often more frequent cutting and mowing. Mechanical methods also have many hidden risks, such as worker and environmental exposure to petroleum products that power mechanical equipment, physical injury from sharp tools and equipment, and the significant alteration of wildlife habitats.
Herbicide methods, on the other hand, can be used in a controlled and selective manner to focus just on those plants and trees that are problematic. Most herbicides used for vegetation control have low human and animal toxicity. Herbicides generally have lower toxicity than the petroleum products released by mechanical cutting equipment. These methods also can result in more desirable wildlife habitats.
Research about Vegetation Management Methods
Research into improved technologies for vegetation management is ongoing. Research efforts include reducing worker exposure to herbicides during mixing and reducing environmental risks associated with the disposal of containers.
Other areas of study include, for example, types of vegetation that actually slow down the invasion of incompatible tree species through allelopathy, the suppression of growth of one plant species through the natural toxics released by another plant species. This research could lead to the use of "natural pesticides," or biopesticides, as a method for controlling vegetation on rights-of-way.
The electric power industry cooperates with manufacturers, regulators, and research institutions to test and develop safe and effective herbicide products and application equipment. The industry will continue to support research that is based on scientifically sound risk reduction principles that benefit the environment, electric company workers, and customers.