The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) has announced its approval
of the long-awaited tree trimming rule, which represents years of
collaboration and hard work.
The rule provides a framework for utilities’ tree and vegetation management
programs which balances their need to ensure reliability of service with the
interests of their customers in preserving their landscapes.
“Rather than having each utility create its own set of guidelines, the
IURC’s rule provides consistency by standardizing the tree trimming process
for Duke Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, Indianapolis Power and Light,
Northern Indiana Public Service Company, and Vectren,” the IURC said in a
statement released Wednesday.
“Utility customers deserve to know what’s taking place on their property and
when,” said David Ziegner, the presiding commissioner. “We want there to be
transparency and for the customer and the utility to work together, not
against each other.”
The rulemaking stems from the IURC’s 19-month investigation, which concluded
on Nov. 30, 2010. The decision laid the groundwork for the rulemaking and
prohibited the utilities from topping trees or removing more than 25 percent
without the property owner’s consent, unless there is an emergency.
Additionally, it required the utilities to provide notice and remove debris
due to normal maintenance within three days.
Based on the new requirements set forth in the decision, the IURC drafted a
more detailed rule which sets standards for trimming practices,
notification, customer education, and the dispute resolution process.
Changes Due to
•Trimming Standards: Utilities must abide by nationally recognized
best practices, such as the ANSI A300 standards.
•Notification: Customers will receive two notices at least two weeks
before trimming is scheduled; notice will also be given 60 days prior to
•Education: By providing details about the tree trimming process and
why it is needed, concerns can be addressed before trimming takes place.
•Dispute Resolution: If a customer objects to the proposed plan
within five days of receiving notice, the utility must hold off on trimming
until the issue is addressed by the utility or the IURC’s Consumer Affairs
•Property Rights: The rule did not change existing property rights;
however, it reiterates that the utility cannot trim outside an easement or
right-of-way without the customer’s consent.
•Tree Replacement: In cases where a tree must be removed, an
agreement may be reached in which the customer is compensated.
“Overall, this rule is a win for utility customers,” Ziegner said. “Never
before have there been standards in place guaranteeing that customers have
an opportunity to interact with the utility before trimming occurs.”
When drafting the rules, the IURC incorporated comments and suggestions from
a variety of stakeholders, including consumer groups like the Indiana Tree
Alliance, private citizens, the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, and
the utility companies. Additionally, the IURC traveled to six locations
during the investigation in order to collect testimony from customers in the
different service territories. The locations visited include Evansville,
Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Merrillville, Muncie, and Seymour.
Although the IURC has approved the final rule, it must still undergo the
administrative review process through state government. This process is
expected to conclude by the fall.