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General Permit for Utility Rights of Way (ROW) for Vegetative Management

Summary

The Department's Division of Environmental Permits (DEP) is proposing to issue a Statewide General Permit (GP) for use by electric and gas utility companies to manage vegetation within existing utility rights-of-way (ROW) by selective pruning, mowing and cutting of vegetation and the application of registered pesticides in State regulated wetlands, regulated wetland adjacent areas and tidal wetlands. The Department has approval authority for vegetative management activities in all of these areas.

The GP will require utility companies to submit, on a yearly basis for Department review, an Annual Vegetative Management Plan (AVMP) which will provide the specifics of the work to be performed along the ROWs. The AVMP will also include precautions, and/or protections to protect state or federal listed plants/animals, special habitats, and/or invasive species. The GP will limit all pesticide use to low volume foliar spray from a backpack sprayer, cut stem and/or stump treatment and must be conducted in a manner that prevents drift of pesticides into waterbodies or standing water. Large scale use of pesticides is not authorized in this GP.

Need

Both the federal government (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission - FERC) and New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) require electric utilities to address issues related to vegetative management of ROW corridors for transmission facilities, because major disturbances in electric service can result from fallen tree limbs and overgrown vegetation coming in contact with transmission and distribution lines. For natural gas transmission lines, such vegetative maintenance which primarily involves mowing prevents woody vegetation and its roots from interfering with the integrity of the underground pipeline.

This GP will replace existing individual permits that have been issued to many of the utility companies that operate in New York State. The issuance of this GP includes a new streamlined and consistent process for review, will provide a more thorough tracking of the permits issued and the work that is authorized. It will also ensure uniform submission requirements for all utility companies, consistent reviews across the state in each of the regions and uniform permitting requirements.

A Notice of Complete Application was published in the August 7, 2019 issue of the Environmental Notice Bulletin, which provides details regarding the opportunity for public comment.

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