CT League of Conservation Voters Summit to Address Massive Clear Cutting by State Utilities

Submitted by Natalie Tallis, Darien

On Tuesday, January 24 the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters will hold their 2023 Summit in Hartford.  

One issue that will be discussed is the massive clear cutting of trees by state utilities over the past few years. The number of trees felled by Eversource along quiet, bucolic tree-lined streets and other areas is estimated to be 20,000 trees a year.  (*The estimate is provided by Eversource, so it is likely much higher. Eversource has various definitions of a tree, depending on whether they are cutting or replanting them.)

My question is simple. Why aren’t the Governor’s office and the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) doing anything to save these precious resources? Why is there no oversight to stop unnecessary cutting? No one wants a hazardous tree that could threaten public safety to remain. However, where is the evidence that clear cutting large swaths of land in Chester, Clinton, Darien, Greenwich, Guilford, Haddam, Hamden, Mansfield, Middletown, Naugatuck, Newton, New Haven, New Milford, Norwalk, Redding, Sharon, Stamford, West Hartford, Weston, Westport, Wilton, Windham, and Woodstock accomplishes that goal.

How is it possible that in 2023 when the world understands the importance of climate change, our state is allowing so many trees to be removed without an environmental impact assessment? It will take hundreds of years to replace the environmental and ecological services these trees provide, which is not only unacceptable but will be too late.

Eversource’s and C-DOTs clear cutting off Littlebrook Road in Darien. Jan 22, 2023

The photo was taken on January 22, 2023, and shows clear cutting off Littlebrook Road in Darien by Eversource’s and CT-Dept of Transportation. Similar scenes are occurring all over the state. This property is an entrance to a nature preserve.

Eversource had not maintained, nor had there been a power outage along this stretch in decades. 

The GC3 has two primary objectives and related tasks, which put the irresponsible and short-sighted clear cutting of trees under their purview.

1- Greenhouse Gas reduction strategies to build a low carbon future for Connecticut.

2- Develop and implement adaption strategies to assess and prepare for the impacts of climate change in areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, natural resources, and public health.

Eversource’s mantra is consistent that trees must come down for a “safer and more reliable” electric grid, but is it true?

Eversource removes trees claiming they could ‘potentially’ threaten the reliability of our electric grid. Our public/private utility claims there is data to back these assumptions, but when a group of citizens in Darien asked for the data, none was provided. We tried mediation, but Eversource’s expensive army of lawyers and staff tend to intimidate and shut down all meaningful discussion.

Why not turn to undergrounding if the concern is genuinely safety and reliability? Could it be Eversource is a private company, and undergrounding would be expensive for its stockholders? The consequences of destroying Connecticut’s environment are also costly. 

PURA regulates Eversource but does not have authority over the environmental impact of any of our utilities’ vegetation management programs. Consequences such as flooding, carbon capture, water and air purification, wildlife habitat, and public health are not part of PURA’s mandate. They should be.

We need the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) and the Governor’s office to rein in our public utilities’ aggressive and ill-conceived clear cutting strategy before it is too late.

Eversource’s and C-DOTs clear cutting off Littlebrook Road in Darien. Jan 22, 2023