Harckham and Burdick’s bill requiring vine trimming on utility poles passes in state legislature


Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

New York State Senator Pete Harckham (D-40th District) and Assemblyman Chris Burdick (D-93rd Assembly District) announced Wednesday that their legislation requiring utility and cable television companies to trim the vines growing on and around utility poles as part of their regular utility pole maintenance has passed in the State Legislature. Overgrown vines on utility poles can cause power outages, especially in ice storms.

“Utility companies statewide need to implement a vegetation management program as a matter of regular pole inspections and maintenance,” said Harckham. “Overgrown vines and vegetation are a leading cause of power and cable outages, so it is incumbent upon our utility providers that they keep a check on fast-growing vines on poles. The goal is to help ensure uninterrupted utility service every single day of the year for residents and business owners.”

“It’s pretty interesting that they have to pass legislation in Albany to tell the utility companies to take all of the Virginia creeper, poison ivy and bittersweet vines off of their utility poles,” said Warren Lucas, North Salem Town Supervisor. “You would think it would simply be good practice for them. My only hope is that they won’t be spraying chemicals to remove them. I will be calling NYSE&G to find out.”

“From my days as Bedford Town Supervisor, I have seen firsthand how vine overgrowth on utility poles can disrupt safe and reliable electrical and cable services,” said Burdick. “Now that I am a member of the New York State Assembly, I am grateful to be able to affect this kind of change. I am delighted our legislation will be heading to the Governor’s desk, and I thank Senator Harckham for this important collaboration.”

Currently, utility companies maintain their poles under a five-year schedule. Adding the requirement that utility poles are maintained for vine growth lowers the likelihood that electric or cable service is interrupted while also alleviating the safety concerns associated with excessive vines. Hard-to-kill and overgrown vines wrapped around utility poles often become entangled in the primary and secondary conductors, causing them to blow a fuse and disrupting service for customers.

While many power and cable outages result from big branches breaking and trees toppling and taking down power lines, overgrown vines on utility poles pose a serious problem as well. The leaves from the vines and other debris can clog up equipment, causing equipment to overheat and fail. In addition, the conductive tissue in a vine’s vascular system can transfer electrical current—causing equipment to malfunction, outages and even personal injury.

Passed earlier in the Senate, the legislation now requires the Public Service Commission to set up rules and regulations regarding vine trimming on utility poles by April 1, 2024.

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