West Penn Power plans to spend $43 million this year to trim and remove trees that could pose problems for power lines in an effort to minimize outages across its 24-county service area.
Six contractors for the Greensburg-based utility company have trimmed more than 600 circuit miles of electric lines in West Penn’s service area since January as part of the vegetation management program this year, said West Penn, a FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary. The company expects that trees and vegetation along an additional 4,100 miles of electric lines will be trimmed by the end of the year.
The tree trimming program, which is done on a five-year cycle, is making a difference in keeping power to the customers and allowing for power to be restored quicker when an outage does occur, said John Rea, regional vice president for West Penn Power. The company experienced 16 percent fewer tree-related power outages last year than in 2017, Rea said.
Vegetation near the lines is inspected to ensure trees are pruned in a way that helps preserve the health of the tree, while also maintaining safety near the electric facilities, the company said.
Contractors have removed more than 4,000 deteriorated ash trees as of late March and expect to remove more than 34,000 dead and dying ash trees affected by the Emerald Ash Borer along the electric distribution lines in Western Pennsylvania. The company expects to spend about $6 million on removing those trees. Trees that present a danger or are diseased also may be removed.
West Penn Power said it works with municipalities to inform officials and residents of the tree trimming schedules before pruning is done.
In the upcoming months, the company will trim trees in:
• Allegheny: Tarentum; East Deer, Harmar and Frazier townships.
• Armstrong: Freeport; Bethel, Gilpin, Kiskimientas Manor, North Buffalo and Parks townships.
• Westmoreland: Greensburg, Jeannette, Latrobe, Lower Burrell, Upper Burrell, Murrysville, New Kensington, Vandergrift, Youngwood; Allegheny, Bell, Derry, Donegal, East Huntingdon, Hempfield, Loyalhanna, North Huntingdon, Rostraver, Salem, South Huntingdon, Unity and Washington townships.