MITCHELL CO., GA (WALB) - A Mitchell County woman said that she's disgusted to see how Georgia Power is handling trees and nature on her property.
The utility giant has a 150 foot easement on about seven acres of her land, but she said they're "mutilating" the trees.
Judy McClellan believes the trimming of the trees around power lines on and near her property is excessive, and is trying to prevent more trees from being stripped. Georgia Power said that they don't have a choice.
A month ago, McClellan said she was notified by a man with the tree cutting business contracted by Georgia Power, that they would be starting their trimming process in the next several days. But she had no idea to what extent.
"The rest of the easement, our property, they have already stripped it," said McClellan. "I mean stripped it. I am horrified."
McClellan said that her parents bought this land back in 1973. She said, about a year before, Georgia Power purchased a 150 foot easement on the land.
"These trees were there before the powerlines were there. For the last 50 years, all they have done was come out and trimmed," explained McClellan. "They've never ever cut these trees as far back as they are demanding to now."
McClellan said she understands that the trees must be trimmed to ensure reliability for Georgia Power clients, but she does not believe it should harm animals living nearby.
"I actually located two bird nests upside down on the ground," said McClellan. "Georgia Power says they care for the environment? Georgia Power says they really care for wildlife habitat preservation? Take a look."
Georgia Power spokesperson John Kraft said that crews are instructed to watch for and avoid bird nests if possible. McClellan said she'll do whatever it takes to protect the oak trees that are hundreds of years old.
"I'll let them in to trim, but not mutilate," said McClellan. "And if I have to chain myself to those trees, that's what is going to happen."
Kraft said he understands McClellan's concerns, but since the Northeast Blackout in 2003, Federal reliability standards tightened significantly.
He said the government can levy penalties of up to $1 million per event, per day if a utility company allows vegetation to encroach too close to a conductor.
Question: Why must this work be done?
Answer: We appreciate our customers' concerns and try to explain our actions, as best we can while meeting our obligation to provide safe and reliable power.
Federal reliability standards (NERC/FERC) tightened significantly in the years following the 2003 Northeast (US/Canada) blackout, which was caused by trees growing into a major transmission line.
Under the Reliability Standard FAC-003-3, potential penalties of up to $1 million per event, per day may be levied by NERC for allowing vegetation to encroach too close to a conductor (wire), for each day that the violation was deemed to exist. The vegetation does not have to cause an outage for a violation to have occurred.
This 500,000-volt line is a major electric supply line moving large quantities of power across the state.
Question: Tree Destabilization?
Answer: Our forestry team has not typically experienced destabilization issues with trees we have previously trimmed. Healthy root systems have more to do with tree stability, and this work will not impact the root systems.
Answer: Our trimming crews are instructed to watch for and avoid bird nests when seen, if possible. Georgia Power has a long record of responsible right-of-way maintenance that includes being sensitive to wildlife and the natural habitat and broader environment.