Kennedy Leads Passage of Bills to Prevent “Surprise Cutting” of State and Municipal Trees
Two bills call for environmental impact analyses and greater public notification, transparency and input into state and municipal tree cutting plans
Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-Branford), led broad, bipartisan Environment Committee passage of two bills that will increase public notification and participation in Connecticut’s state and municipal tree removal process.
“Many citizens are alarmed and upset by the widespread removal of over 600,000 trees across Connecticut in recent years, especially when excessive tree cutting occurs along scenic roads and historic districts,” said Senator Kennedy, Co-Chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee and master’s degree graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Current law requires that the state, municipalities and utility companies monitor, prune and remove dead, dying or hazardous trees. However, many Connecticut citizens believe that Connecticut agencies and utilities overreacted to Tropical Storms Irene and Sandy and have used these and other weather events as a justification for clearcutting.
“In many circumstances, tree removal along state highways and in municipal neighborhoods happens by ‘surprise,’ with no public notification or opportunity to object. The perceived risks to traffic safety or power do not seem to justify the large extent of removal. We need a more informed, deliberative, transparent evaluation process before government actors or utility companies cut down an irreplaceable 100-year-old tree,” said Kennedy.
HB 6123 requires that the Connecticut Department of Transportation provide the Environment Committee with their future tree removal plans along state highways, including their cost and potential environmental impacts. This planning information already exists, but is not always disclosed to the legislature or local municipal leaders.
HB 6356 would prohibit cities, towns and utility companies from cutting down trees located on municipal property without prior public notice. Utility companies would also be required to make a formal written request to the city or town for permission to cut down a tree, even if the tree is located in a “utility protection zone” located on municipal property. The bill contains some important common sense exceptions, such as when a tree poses an immediate hazard or endangers power lines. HB 6356 has gained the support of many municipal leaders, including the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), which submitted testimony in support of both tree removal bills. CCM believes that HB 6356 clarifies the process of tree removal, codifies the rights of the public and municipalities to be notified of utility tree work, makes uniform the consent procedures from abutting property owners, and makes the process more predictable and consistent among all municipalities across the state.
Now that the two bills have been approved by the Environment Committee, they head to the floor of the House of Representatives.