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HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 3496        FILED ON: 1/21/2011

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 3058


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts



Paul W. Mark


To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
              Court assembled:

              The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the adoption of the accompanying bill:

An Act to study safe, reliable and cost-effective transmission of electric power in the Commonwealth.






Paul W. Mark

2nd Berkshire

HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 3496        FILED ON: 1/21/2011

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 3058

By Mr. Mark of Hancock, a petition (accompanied by bill, House, No. 3058) of Paul W. Mark for legislation to establish a special commission (including members of the General Court) to make an investigation and study relative to the safe, reliable and cost-effective transmission of electricity.  Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts



In the Year Two Thousand Eleven



An Act to study safe, reliable and cost-effective transmission of electric power in the Commonwealth.


              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

              SECTION 1. Whereas, Safe and efficient high-voltage transmission in the

              Commonwealth is essential for the reliable and cost-effective transmission of electric power to homes and businesses in Massachusetts; and

              Whereas, Awareness of the vital importance of climate change has made energy efficiency a matter of national and state urgency, and

              Whereas, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a report on September 7, 2004 describing the need for clarification of the state, federal and local regulatory environment to permit efficient and coordinated control of vegetation along ROWs; and

              Whereas, the uncontrolled growth of trees in the “wire security zone” was found, by a Canadian/US commission to be the principle cause of the worst blackout in US history, affecting some 50 million people in August, 2003, and

              Whereas, the toxicity of herbicides used for such vegetation control to fish, birds, mammals and, especially amphibians is well established by a preponderance of scientific evidence, to the extent that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibits herbicidal applications during certain periods of the year to protect the environment and endangered species.

              Therefore, a commission is formed to study ways to preserve and enhance safe and efficient transmission of electric power in the Commonwealth, including a) the relative merits and applications of above-ground and underground transmission relative to safety, cost and reliability, b) current industry vegetation control practices in “wire security zones” and the vegetation

              control’s impact on efficiency of energy transmission and on animals and humans and alternative vegetation management practices which might reduce the need for herbicides,  c) the security and regulation of wind, solar, hydroelectric and other forms of privately–owned (i.e. distributed generation) electricity including the qualifications of approved installers and just and fair compensation for electricity added to the grid from these sources.

              SECTION 2. The study commission shall include four members

              appointed by the Speaker of the House, four members appointed by

              the Senate President, and eight members appointed by the Governor.

              These members shall include the chairs of the joint committee on the

              environment, the chairs of the joint committee on energy, one

              member of a Massachusetts environmental group, the commissioner

              of agriculture, one biologist specializing in pesticides and herbicides,

              the secretary of the department of telecommunications and energy,

              and two representatives of the electric industry. The committee shall

              request opinions from Electricity Producers and Distributors, UMass Extension, the Massachusetts Geological Information Services, the Massachusetts delegation to the US

              Congress, the National Council of State Legislators, the North

              American Electric Reliability Council, the National Association of

              Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and the United States Fish and

              Wildlife Service and any other institution or individual.

              The charge to the Commission shall include, but not be limited to the following:

              a)              Study the reliability of above-ground transmission lines in urban areas, including Lynn and surrounding cities and towns, and recommend legislation or other actions to be taken to assure reliable, efficient and safe electricity  transmission,

              b)              Assess the width of ROWs in Massachusetts relative to the voltage

              carried by power lines and the need, if any, for additional emergency

              powers for utility line managers to prune, top, or remove individual

              trees on private or state-owned land outside the ROW that pose a

              danger of falling or being blown down onto active high-voltage

              lines, thus interrupting the effective transmission of electrical power

              throughout the power grid.

              c) Evaluate current industry standards and practices of installing, managing and recompensing private producers of electricity and the need for changes in practice relative to any aspect of those standards, including the qualifications of installers and

              d) Evaluate industry  practices of vegetation management in electric “wire security zones” including impact on animals, including fish, birds, mammals and amphibians, and on humans.

              e) Explore the applicability of vegetation management practices

              that propagate and encourage the growth of low bushes and shrubs

              such as Hazelnut (Corylus Americana), Mountain Laurel (Kalmia

              latifolia), blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), and other species

              that can provide food for animals and humans and beautification as a

              supplement or alternative to cutting, mowing and the application of herbicides.

              f) Determine the feasibility and costs of mapping of the entire

              high-voltage electrical grid in Massachusetts highlighting areas requiring enhancement or new construction to ensure safe, reliable and efficient transmission of electricity and of

              designating wetlands, streams and vernal pools where frogs and amphibians breed.

              g) Provide recommendations for legislation or regulation changes

              for the protection and preservation of species diversity, including but

              not limited to restrictions on vegetation control methods, rates of

              herbicide application and seasonality of vegetation control to accommodate the reproductive cycle of affected amphibians and any other species of critical concern.

              h) Appraise the feasibility of creating a state program to allow municipalities

              to plant and maintain native bushes and shrubs, including Blueberries,

              Hazelnut, and Mountain Laurel in electric “wire securityzones”, as an alternative to current vegetation management.

              i) Generate recommendations for further study, if necessary, including

              how and when that further study should take place.

              SECTION 3. Within nine months of the commission appointment,

              a final report shall be filed with the joint committee on energy, the

              joint committee on the environment, the governor, and shall be made

              available to the public. The commission shall end three months after

              the publishing of the final report.

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