Neighbors Still Complain about Tree-Trimming for Power Lines


In a battle with utilities over power lines and tree trimming, some people would apparently rather have their trees than electricity.

It’s a romantic image straight out of “Gone With the Wind:” Giant oaks on either side of the road providing a canopy complete with Spanish Moss. In the south, we love our big trees. Unfortunately, power lines don’t.

People have complained for decades about how power companies will call in tree-trimming crews to make sure tree limbs and branches aren’t growing too close to power lines. The angry homeowners complain that the utilities come in a “hack the trees to death” or “chop them within an inch of their life.”

You can drive down main arteries in the Charleston area and see plenty of examples of misshapen trees that have obviously been cut to give room to overhead power lines.

Here’s one of plenty of examples:

A tree in Charleston, South Carolina, pruned to keep branches clear of overhead electric lines. ©Patrick’s Place

Instead of a nice round, green dome, we have this oddly-reshaped tree cut around power lines.

If you live in a place where there are lots of trees and lots of power lines, you probably see this. It’s unfortunate. But utilities have to protect their power lines. There’s no real choice there.

That doesn’t stop the bickering.

I spotted recently the latest iteration of the battle on the Neighbors app. People were arguing (and demonizing) the local electric provider over the latest tree trimming. I thought one of the answers was very telling.

A few brave folk chimed in with attempts at reason.

“The problem is if you keep trees near power lines you will have power outages during storms,” one said. “Then the same people here will complain that they haven’t had power for 3 or 4 days!”

Some suggested those people should cut down the ones that keep threatening the power lines. Then they could plant two — or even three — elsewhere on their property. That way, they’re increasing the number of trees but also not having to witness the extreme pruning of the others.

Yes, that means killing one tree by cutting it down. But to listen to some of these angry people, the utilities seem to be intent on doing precisely that anyway.

Then someone chimed in with this:

I think everyone complaining about the trees is smart enough to be aware of the very obvious pros/cons of the situation, and we’re saying that yes occasional longer outages or a higher electrical bill would be preferable to the monstrosity of [the electric utility] arborists’ work.

There’s an obvious problem here that people like this refuse to consider:

It isn’t just about their tree, their yard or their electricity. If tree limbs take down power lines, the resulting outage doesn’t happen only at their address.

It can affect an entire neighborhood. Depending on the damage, it can affect more than a single neighborhood.

Here’s one example to consider: What about a person with a condition like COPD who relies on portable oxygen tanks, which, in turn, rely on electricity? Why do you, in your unreasonable outrage, get to decide whether someone like that gets to keep their electricity?

What about those already struggling to pay bills who are losing hundreds of dollars of food in their freezer?

You have to look beyond your own lawn.

It’s sad that anyone even needs to say this.

Too few people these days are willing to look past the edge of their own yard. Too few seem able to contemplate that they aren’t the only ones around.

Decisions people make affect more than just that person.

I feel bad for the trees. I hate to see trees cut up to avoid coming in contact with power lines.

Some say the answer would be to pay more to have power lines moved underground. Wouldn’t a tree’s route system eventually become a problem there?

Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not sure how that works or how far below ground tree routes or power lines would go. Maybe they’d always stay clear of one another.

People want their trees where they want them. I get that, too. But no matter how valiantly they claim they’d be willing to suffer a longer outage, we all know better. They want the power on all the time. As soon as the lights go off, they’re on the phone to the utility demanding to know when things will come back on.

There’s no sign of our “my way or no way” mentality dissipating anytime soon, it seems. Maybe if we’d think about others rather than ourselves a little more often, we as a country might be able to get over it and actually move forward once in a while.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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