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Customers want Pepco off their lawns, out of their trees

Wednesday - 6/13/2012, 1:53am  ET

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A new bill would require Pepco to notify property owners in advance and get written consent from them before trimming trees in Montgomery County.

At a public hearing Tuesday night before County Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, several residents complained about the way Pepco trims and cuts down trees.

"Obviously dead or dying branches overhanging power lines need to be carefully removed, but Pepco's contractors have devastated the gracious tree canopy," said Ken Bawer with the Maryland Native Plant Society.

Resident Judy Koenick called Pepco "The butcher of Montgomery County" for the way she says the utility goes about trimming trees.

Other county residents say the bill is a bad idea.

"We should stay out of the way of utility companies and let them do the job of maintaining electrical service we all depend on," said David Weitzer with the Montgomery County Agricultural Advisory Committee.

Also testifying against the bill was Jerry Pasternak, Pepco Region Vice President for Maryland.

Pasternak says the company's stepped-up tree trimming program is paying off.

"Where we have completed the work, the number of outages per customer is down by nearly 40 percent," Pasternak says.

He says this bill would get in the way of that progress.

"This bill undermines the new vegetation management standards issued just a few short weeks ago by the Maryland Public Service Commission," says Pasternak. "Standards that were carefully crafted with the county's active participation to improve reliability, balance costs and provide certainty."

The same council committee that held last night's hearing is tentatively scheduled to hold a work session on the bill on June 21.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)