February 1 Update: We are pleased to report that this bill was held and not voted on by the State Senate on January 31. We will continue to advise of developments.
On Thursday (January 31), the Senate is scheduled to vote on S-2505, known as the, “Vegetation Management Response Act.” S-2505 would provide electric utility companies completely unfettered authority to clear, move, cut, or destroy any dangerous vegetation. While we appreciate the sponsors’ intentions and appreciate amendments which now require notice of vegetation management work be made to municipal governments and property owners, the League remains opposed to this bill.
The approach taken in this legislation is unnecessarily broad and overreaching, and removes local governments’ ability to plan and manage vegetation in the right-of-way. While S-2505 seemingly limits what vegetation a public utility can address to only “dangerous vegetation,” that term is unnecessarily broad to the point of near total inclusion of all vegetation.
As defined within the bill, “dangerous vegetation” would include any “vegetation growing in, near, or adjacent to the electric public utility’s right of way, and the electric distribution and transmission system…which may fall into, touch, affect, or otherwise interfere with an electrical distribution line.” This would seemingly include any vegetation on either public or private property and gives public utilities sole discretion to determine what meets the criteria of “dangerous vegetation.” The utility is also under no requirement to receive any input from the public before the utility can unilaterally choose to clear, move, cut, and destroy to remove or replace the vegetation.
We need your assistance to ensure that state legislators hear the concerns of municipal leaders. We are asking that you please contact your state representatives to let them hear your concerns with allowing electric utilities to have total control of the vegetation in your municipal rights-of-way. Your legislator’s contact information can be found using the state’s website which breaks this information down by municipality.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org or 609-695- 3481 x 137.