Vegetation Management Program
While MEAG Power values beautiful trees and landscaping, it is our responsibility to ensure that vegetation does not jeopardize the reliability and safety of the high-voltage electric grid. As overseers of this critical national and local necessity, we are subject to strict vegetation management and reliability standards established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as authorized by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Failure to comply with standard guidelines, which are developed and enforced by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, can result in substantial fines and/or imprisonment.
We try to be reasonable when approaching these guidelines, but we must continually make certain that power lines within our right-of-way are kept free from hazardous vegetation. This ensures that your lights will stay on and that our crews can perform their jobs safely. Indeed, the initial cause of one of the most far-reaching power outages in U.S. history—a loss of electricity that affected approximately 50 million people—was a single tree that first contacted high-voltage power lines.
This 2003 outage was a dramatic event, but it underscores the risk to reliable electric service vegetation can pose when left unchecked along a utility’s right-of-way. In response to this event, the federal government passed legislation that authorized federal regulations to mandate that vegetation must be regularly managed along bulk-power transmission systems to prevent trees, shrubs and vines from contacting the lines and to assure access for utility vehicles. As a result, MEAG Power, along with Georgia Power’s assistance as our contractor to manage the fieldwork, has established a prudent Vegetation Management Program that meets all federal standards. No doubt you may have seen crews regularly mowing, applying herbicides, pruning vegetation and when necessary, removing trees.
What determines prudent management? We evaluate vegetation on our right-of-way in terms of two criteria. First, does it allow for minimum clearance of the lines? It is important to realize that while trees may not appear to be near our power lines now, in the summer these transmission lines may sag much lower as they expand under heavier or emergency loading conditions. Also, wind may cause the lines to sway, and we have to take into account future growth at maturity. While our transmission line right-of-way easements generally allow us to remove all vegetation, we usually follow this guideline: trees or shrubs that when fully grown cannot be over 15 feet. All vegetation control work done on the MEAG Power right-of-way is managed or performed by registered foresters, certified arborists and certified pesticide applicators.
Second, does the vegetation allow workers a clear pathway to patrol, upgrade or repair the transmission system on the right-of-way? By keeping access to the right-of-way mowed and free from undergrowth or low hanging branches, maintenance vehicles and crews are able to perform their jobs safely and restore power to customers as quickly as possible.
Are all utility lines subject to the same management standards? The MEAG Power vegetation standards we have noted here apply only to our high-voltage transmission lines, which are 46,000 volts or higher--usually tall towers or poles with multiple wires. MEAG Power only maintains such heavy-duty power lines. Lower voltage distribution power lines--usually those on smaller wooden poles--are regulated differently. Questions about vegetation management around these smaller distribution lines should be addressed to your local electric utility.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Through our prudent Vegetation Management Program, MEAG Power complies with mandated federal regulations while respecting the property right-of-ways our transmission lines cross. Above all, our goal is to ensure that reliable and safe bulk power reaches communities in Georgia and the nation.