FirstEnergy Corp. units Mon Power and Potomac Edison have received authorization for a new tree trimming program to help lessen the frequency and duration of power outages associated with storms in their West Virginia service areas. The program was recently approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC) of West Virginia.
The new, enhanced program will place tree trimming and right-of-way vegetation maintenance on a five-year cycle through 2019, with a four-year cycle possible in future years once the initial work is evaluated.
Mon Power and Potomac Edison initially will focus on trimming trees near distribution lines in rural areas and along transmission lines to enhance service reliability.
Forestry crews use hand-operated tools, saws, mowers, aerial helicopter saws and EPA-approved herbicide applications to trim trees and maintain vegetation along FirstEnergy's distribution and transmission networks.
Clearing incompatible vegetation under power lines results in easier access for company personnel to inspect and maintain lines and make repairs sooner if an outage occurs.
It is anticipated that the enhanced tree trimming program will result in tree contractors hiring more than 400 tree specialists to do work on behalf of Mon Power and Potomac Edison in West Virginia.
Mon Power and Potomac Edison expect to spend about $75 million annually during the initial five-year cycle of the new vegetation management program. This yearly total would be added to what is currently spent annually by both companies for right-of-way tree trimming in West Virginia.
Mon Power serves about 385,000 customers in 34 West Virginia counties and Potomac Edison serves about 135,000 customers in the state's Eastern Panhandle.