OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5150

AN ACT CONCERNING TREE WARDENS' NOTICES ON TREES AND SHRUBS PRIOR TO REMOVAL, TREE REMOVAL ALONG STATE HIGHWAYS AND CLEAN-UP BY PUBLIC UTILITY CORPORATIONS FOLLOWING CERTAIN TREE REMOVAL.

SUMMARY:

This bill imposes several requirements related to tree trimming and utility vegetation management (pruning or removing trees or shrubs around utility poles and wires). Among other things, it requires:

1. the Department of Transportation (DOT) to submit a plan to remove any tree along a state highway to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Environment Committee sixty days before removal occurs, and

2. utilities that conduct certain vegetation management (a) in “utility protection zones” to remove any debris from the activity and (b) to annually provide towns or boroughs with their plans.

The bill gives town tree wardens exclusive authority to hold public hearings on permit requests to cut or remove trees or shrubs within the limits of public roads or grounds.

Lastly, it allows tree wardens to post notices of proposed shrub removal or pruning on groups of shrubs, instead of each individual shrub. By law, a warden must do this at least 10 days before removing or pruning a shrub under his or her control unless its condition requires immediate removal or pruning.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

DOT TREE REMOVAL PLAN

Under the bill, the tree removal plan DOT submits to DEEP and the Environment Committee must be reviewed and signed by a licensed arborist and provide the:

1. proposed areas scheduled for tree removal,

2. timeframe for the work,

3. amount of funding DOT allocated for the work, and

4. distance DOT intends to clear.

The bill specifies that a plan is not needed when DOT is removing a tree or group of trees to remedy an immediate public hazard.

UTILITY VEGETATION MANAGEMENT

Debris Removal

Under the bill, utilities must remove any debris from vegetation management conducted in “utility protection zones” (within eight feet of either side of their wires and anywhere above or below them). This requirement applies only to projects that a utility requests and receives approval for by the tree warden or other applicable authority.

Annual Plans

The bill requires utilities that intend to conduct vegetation management in a town or borough to annually provide certain information to the tree warden or the chief elected official of the town or borough. They must provide (1) a plan with the proposed areas or roads where the vegetation management will occur in the coming year and (2) the estimated schedule for the work.

The town or borough must make the plan available to the public within 14 days after receiving it. It may do so by electronic or other methods, but the plan must be available for the entire year. Utilities must start providing these plans by January 31, 2017.

CUTTING OR REMOVAL HEARINGS

By law, anyone other than a tree warden or deputy warden seeking to cut or remove a tree or shrub within the limits of a public road or grounds must obtain a permit. They may apply to the town or borough tree warden, the DOT commissioner, or other applicable authority.

The bill limits the authorities who may hold a public hearing on a permit application. Current law allows town or borough tree wardens, the commissioner, or other authority to hold a hearing. The bill limits this authority to town tree wardens. Existing law requires a tree warden to hold a hearing if he or she receives a written objection to a proposed removal or pruning.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

26

Nay

3

(03/16/2016)