Trees left to grow near high voltage power lines create electrocution danger for the public. Tree branches can grow and hide power lines. The trap set by this situation can maim or kill workers who are painting nearby buildings, or innocent children who are playing by climbing a tree.
The safety rules of the utility regulators require the electric power company to keep the trees cut back from the power lines.
Each state will have its safety rules to prevent electrical injuries. But sometimes the power company may not comply with the safety standards. For example, this staff report comments about inadequate tree clearance to electric lines. In the report, the staff asked the commission to authorize issuance of a citation to the power company, and thereby commence the hearing process.
If the power company does not follow the safety rules, and electrical injury or death is the result, then a personal injury attorney should present the specific safety standard, and the resulting harm, in the trial.
Oregon tree clearance from power lines
The Oregon safety rules give the specific distance from power lines to tree branches and other vegetation:
Oregon Administrative Rules 860-024-0016
“Minimum Vegetation Clearance Requirements
(2) … Each operator of electric supply facilities must have a vegetation management program and keep appropriate records to ensure that timely trimming is accomplished to keep the designated minimum clearances. …
(5) Under reasonably anticipated operational conditions, an operator of electric supply facilities must maintain the following minimum clearances of vegetation from conductors:
(a) Ten feet for conductors energized above 200,000 volts.
(b) Seven and one-half feet for conductors energized at 50,001 through 200,000 volts.
(c) Five feet for conductors energized at 600 through 50,000 volts.
(A) Clearances may be reduced to three feet if the vegetation is not readily climbable.
(B) Intrusion of limited small branches and new tree growth into this minimum clearance area is acceptable provided the vegetation does not come closer than six inches to the conductor.
(7) In determining the extent of trimming … the operator of electric supply facilities must consider at minimum the following factors for each conductor:
(e) Growth habit, strength, and health of vegetation growing adjacent to the conductor …”
California tree clearance from power lines
California has two minimum distance laws.
General Order 95, rule 35, has a 18” minimum distance that electric power utilities must maintain at all times.
Public Resources code 4293, requires 4 feet of clearance, in State Regulated Areas or wild lands.
The California requirements were provided by John Sevier, Certified Arborist WE1415A. Mr. Sevier has testified as a tree accident expert in the legislative process for General Order 95, rule 35, and in court cases about power line contact and trees, for example Pickrell v. Alabama Power and Chamu v. San Diego Gas and Electric.