LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – It’s a growth issue that came to a head several months ago, now concerned residents in Lexington are calling on state government to step in to answer the city’s tree troubles. They’re hoping for legislation to give more local control to stop utility companies from completely cutting trees down.

Residents said the lack of local control not only hurts the value of the area but poses a risk to the community at large. Every power company is required to have a vegetation management plan for keeping trees around lines under control, but some residents believe Kentucky Utilities’ plan is a “one-size-fits-all” approach that goes too far

“Trying to understand the project and make sense of our predicament, I repeatedly asked why. Why would the utility do something that would damage and worsen our neighborhood’s infrastructure,” Pattie Broadbent told lawmakers Tuesday at a meeting of the interim joint local government committee.

Broadbent says the clearcut is greatly reducing her property value and creates a risk for flooding. She’s losing 58 trees in her yard alone.

“When we lose these trees, it ends up costing us millions of dollars in excess infrastructure in order to reroute the waste [storm] water we no longer have control over,” Lexington City Councilman David Kloiber said.

Kloiber told the committee that the city’s previous method to just trim trees never caused any outages. He echoed other residents ask for legislation to limit use of easements by utility companies and give additional protections to local municipalities.

“Right now, there is nothing else that we can do going through both the PSC appeals and through the court system in order to address the issue. Residents have even reached out and offered to pay for these trimming services themselves,” Kloiber said.

“It is generally accepted that the single largest cause of electrical power outages occurs when trees or portions of trees grow or fall into overhead power lines,” Linda Bridwell, executive director of the Kentucky Public Service Commission said.

Bridwell said maintaining trees over cutting them down could cost KU and other utilities hundreds of thousands to upwards of $20 million.

“It’s escalating across all utilities because of a significant increase in labor fuel and equipment costs,” she said.

No representatives from KU were present at the meeting. In a statement, a spokesperson for KU said:

While we can’t speak to the committee’s meeting, we take our commitment to providing energy service to the community seriously. Our employees live and work in the communities we serve, and we understand the strong connection many feel to our community’s trees and landscape. At the same time, the potential for trees to fall into or make contact with power lines is one of the biggest threats to the high-voltage transmission and lower voltage distribution systems. Company data collected over the past six years shows at least one out of every six outages on the KU transmission system in the Lexington area were likely caused by vegetation-related issues. These figures demonstrate that vegetation is a significant contributor to outages across our service territory and pose a customer risk that we cannot leave unaddressed. Overhead electric powerline clearance work is necessary to maintain the reliability of the electric transmission grid, which is why we would advocate for management of these programs to remain with the utilities. Vegetation management work combined with other ongoing system hardening efforts across the KU electric system as well as that of our sister utility, Louisville Gas and Electric Company, have reduced the frequency and duration of power outages by about 40% since 2011, excluding major events. By performing this work, LG&E and KU and surrounding utilities can further strengthen the grid and continue to provide safe, reliable electric service. As part of our standard vegetation management process, we secure rights-of-way around our facilities, meet with elected officials and communicate with stakeholders in advance of our work – in the Lexington-Fayette area, we meet regularly with LFUCG staff. We also send out mailings to ensure customer awareness and meet with property owners impacted by our work.

Kentucky Utilities Statement, Spokesperson