20.50.12.09

.09 Vegetation Management Requirements.

A. Intent and Scope.

(1) It is the intent of the Commission that a utility engage in vegetation management programs that are necessary and appropriate to maintain safety and electric system reliability.

(2) The standards set forth in this regulation shall constitute minimum vegetation management requirements applicable to utilities in the State, and are not intended to supersede or prohibit a utility’s implementation of more aggressive vegetation management standards and practices.

(3) The vegetation management requirements in this chapter apply to the extent not limited by contract rights, property rights, or any controlling law or regulation of any unit of State or local government.

(4) This regulation applies to any electric transmission plant not regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

B. Technical Standards for Vegetation Management.

(1) Each utility shall ensure that vegetation management conducted on its energized plant is performed in accordance with the standards applicable to Maryland Licensed Tree Experts, which are incorporated by reference under COMAR 08.07.07.02.

(2) Each utility’s vegetation management program shall address, at a minimum, all of the following activities:

(a) Tree pruning and removal;

(b) Vegetation management around poles, substations, and energized overhead electric plant;

(c) Manual, mechanical, or chemical vegetation management along rights-of-way;

(d) Inspection of areas where vegetation management is performed after the vegetation management;

(e) Cultural control practices;

(f) Public education regarding vegetation management practices;

(g) Public and customer notice of planned vegetation management activities; and

(h) Debris management during routine vegetation management and during outage restoration efforts.

(3) Each utility shall develop its own vegetation management program, which shall be consistent with this regulation. In developing the program, a utility shall conduct its vegetation management and determine the extent and priority of vegetation management to be performed at a particular site based on these factors:

(a) The extent of the potential for vegetation to interfere with poles, substations, and energized overhead electric plant;

(b) The voltage of the affected energized conductor, with higher voltages requiring larger clearances;

(c) The relative importance of the affected energized conductor in maintaining safety and reliability;

(d) The type of conductors and type of overhead construction;

(e) The likely regrowth rate for each species of vegetation at the site;

(f) The potential movement of energized conductors and vegetation during various weather conditions;

(g) The utility’s legal rights to access the area where vegetation management is to be performed;

(h) The maturity of the vegetation;

(i) The identification of the structural condition of the vegetation, including the characteristics of a species as one having a high probability of causing a service interruption during weather events;

(j) State and local statutes, regulations, or ordinances affecting utility performance of vegetation management;

(k) Customer acceptance of the proposed vegetation management where the utility does not have legal rights to perform vegetation management; and

(l) Any other appropriate factor approved by the Commission.

(4) Each utility shall file a copy of its vegetation management program with the Commission within 90 days of the effective date of this regulation. If a utility makes a change in its vegetation management program, the utility shall file a copy of the change with the Commission no later than 30 days prior to implementing the change, unless exigent circumstances warrant implementation without prior notice, in which case the change shall be filed by no later than 30 days after implementation.

C. Training, Record Keeping, and Reporting.

(1) Each utility shall adopt standards, to the extent not covered by other existing law, to be used by all persons who perform vegetation management for the utility, whether employees or contractors, for the proper care of trees and other woody plants, including safety practices and line clearance techniques.

(2) The utility shall monitor and document scheduled vegetation management and related activities the utility or its contractor performs. Documentation shall include, but is not limited to:

(a) Identification of each circuit or substation or, if applicable, both circuit and substation where vegetation management was performed;

(b) The type of vegetation management performed including removal, trimming, and spraying and methods used;

(c) The name of the Maryland Licensed Tree Expert responsible for oversight of vegetation management at the circuit or substation level;

(d) The approximate date of activity;

(e) Any occurrence resulting in serious injury to a person as a result of vegetation management activities; and

(f) When a utility seeks to remove a tree or limb, but is unable to do so because permission or cooperation is not obtained.

(3) Each utility shall include a summary of the information required under §C(2) of this regulation about its vegetation management during the preceding calendar year, and shall describe vegetation management planned for the current calendar year, as part of the annual performance report required to be filed with the Commission under Regulation .11 of this chapter. The annual performance report also shall include:

(a) Expenditures for vegetation management in the preceding calendar year;

(b) Vegetation management budget for the current calendar year;

(c) Circuits or substations, completion dates, and the estimated number of overhead circuit miles trimmed in the preceding calendar year in compliance with the cyclical vegetation management requirements set forth under §F of this regulation;

(d) Circuits or substations and the estimated number of overhead circuit miles scheduled for the current calendar year in compliance with the cyclical vegetation management requirements set forth under §F of this regulation;

(e) Total overhead circuit miles for the system; and

(f) If applicable, a corrective action plan, preferably in its annual performance report or, if necessary, in the supplemental annual performance report.

(4) Each utility shall report its own violation of this chapter to the Commission within 60 days of discovery and include its plan for correcting each violation.

D. Public Notice of Planned Vegetation Management.

(1) Each utility shall make a reasonable attempt to notify an owner or occupant of all properties upon which cyclical, planned vegetation management is to be performed. This requirement will be satisfied if the utility provides notice to affected property owners or occupants at least 7 days, but not more than 120 days, prior to performing cyclical, planned vegetation management activity. Notice shall be provided by direct mailing, door hanger, postcard, personal contact, or a different method if approved by the Commission, but may not be made solely by bill insert. Nothing in this regulation prohibits a utility from using more than one of these methods.

(2) Each utility or its contractor shall provide written notice of any cyclical, planned vegetation management activities to a primary contact for each county and municipality affected at least 2 months before commencing the activities unless the county or municipality notifies the utility that written notification is not required.

E. Outreach Programs.

(1) Each utility shall conduct an annual public education program to inform its customers, as well as a primary contact for each county and municipality in the utility’s service territory, of the importance of vegetation management, and of the utility’s role and responsibility in managing vegetation near electric lines, poles, and substations.

(2) The public education program required under this section shall be implemented by direct mail, bill inserts, or a different method if approved by the Commission.

(3) Each utility shall post its vegetation management public education materials on its website.

F. Specific Requirements. Each utility shall perform vegetation management based on the following schedule:

(1) Initially beginning on January 1 of the year immediately following the effective date of this regulation, a utility on a 4-year trim cycle shall within:

(a) 12 months perform vegetation management on not less than 15 percent of its total distribution miles;

(b) 24 months perform vegetation management on not less than 40 percent of its total distribution miles;

(c) 36 months perform vegetation management on not less than 70 percent of its total distribution miles; and

(d) 4 years perform vegetation management on not less than 100 percent of its total distribution miles.

(2) Initially beginning on January1 of the year immediately following the effective date of this regulation, a utility on a 5-year trim cycle shall within:

(a) 12 months perform vegetation management on not less than 12 percent of its total distribution miles;

(b) 24 months perform vegetation management on not less than 32 percent of its total distribution miles;

(c) 36 months perform vegetation management on not less than 56 percent of its total distribution miles;

(d) 48 months perform vegetation management on not less than 75 percent of its total distribution miles; and

(e) 5 years perform vegetation management on not less than 100 percent of its total distribution miles.

(3) Each utility shall follow the vegetation management performance requirement under §F(1) or (2) of this regulation for each subsequent trim cycle.

G. Vegetation management shall be performed based on the factors set forth under §B(3) of this regulation. The following minimum clearances shall be obtained at the time vegetation management is conducted to the extent not limited by contract rights, property rights or other controlling legal authority:

(1) Horizontal clearances:

(a) Greater than 34.5 kV: The clearance from the conductors shall be the greater of 15 feet or 4 years’ growth if using a 4-year trim cycle (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). Horizontal clearance beneath the conductors shall be measured radially.

(b) From 14 kV to 34.5 kV: The clearance from the conductors shall be the greater of 10 feet or 4 years’ growth if using a 4-year trim cycle (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). Horizontal clearance beneath the conductors shall be measured radially.

(c) Less than 14 kV but at least 600 volts: The clearance from the conductors shall be 4 years’ growth if using a 4-year trim cycle (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). Horizontal clearance beneath the conductors shall be measured radially.

(d) For a conductor with a voltage from 14 kV to 34.5 kV which is operated only as a distribution feeder, the horizontal clearance shall be as set forth under §G(1)(c) of this regulation as if its voltage were less than 14 kV but at least 600 volts.

(e) The horizontal clearances are the minimum clearances the utility shall establish during each cyclical planned vegetation management trim cycle.

(2) Vertical clearances:

(a) Greater than 34.5 kV: The vertical clearance above the conductors shall be established by removing all overhanging limbs within the maximum horizontal clearance zone specified under §G(1)(a) of this regulation. The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be the greater of 15 feet or 4 years’ growth (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be measured radially. See Figure No. 1

(b) From 14 kV to 34.5 kV: The vertical clearance above the conductors shall be established by removing all overhanging limbs above the conductors within the horizontal clearance zone specified under §G(1)(b) of this Regulation. The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be the greater of 10 feet or 4 years’ growth (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be measured radially. See Figure No. 2.

(c) Less than 14 kV but at least 600 volts:

(i) Multiple open wires on a cross-arm or armless construction from the substation to the first protective device: The vertical clearance above the conductors shall be established by removing all overhanging limbs above the conductors within the horizontal clearance zone specified under §G(1)(c) of this regulation. The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be 4 years’ growth (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be measured radially. See Figure 3.

(ii) Except as provided in §G(2)(c)(i) for multiple open wires on a cross-arm or armless construction, the vertical clearance above the conductors shall be 15 feet. The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be 4 years’ growth (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). The vertical clearances above and below the conductor shall be measured radially.

(iii) Spacer cable, tree wire with messenger cable above, aerial cable, and single-phase: The vertical clearance above the conductors shall be 6 feet. The vertical clearance below the conductors shall be 4 years’ growth (or 5 years’ growth if using a 5-year trim cycle). The vertical clearance above and beneath the conductors shall be measured radially.

(d) For a conductor with a voltage from 14 kV to 34.5 kV which is operated only as a distribution feeder, the vertical clearance shall be as set forth in the corresponding standard contained in §G(2)(c) of this regulation as if its voltage were less than 14 kV but at least 600 volts.

(e) The vertical clearances are the minimum clearances the utility shall establish during each cyclical planned vegetation management trim cycle.

(3) Mature trees may be exempt from the minimum clearance requirements specified above at the utility's reasonable discretion for voltage levels at 34.5 kV and below

H. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jurisdictional Transmission Plant. Each utility shall file with the Commission’s Engineering Division a copy of all vegetation management related filings associated with a transmission line in Maryland to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or an entity approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If the information is confidential or critical energy infrastructure information, the utility shall advise the Commission’s Engineering Division in writing and make the information available for review at a mutually agreeable time and location.