Most of us would agree that taking care of trees in our neighborhood is important — after all, the shaded, tree-filled environments is one of the main reasons many of us live here. But how much are we personally willing to pay to increase the amount of times Oncor prunes trees, thereby reducing the whack job the utility’s tree pruners inflict on trees that happen to be growing near power lines?
That’s the ultimate question we’re going to be asking ourselves as State Sen. John Carona’s recent efforts proceed. As you’ve probably heard, Carona stepped into the firestorm between angry neighbors and Oncor, brokering a deal with Oncor to reduce the 10-foot, 4-inch pruning distance from branch to power line to a 7-foot distance. Of course, reducing the amount of tree trimmed increases the number of times Oncor will be trimming. In conjunction with that plan, Oncor also plans to test more tree-resistant power lines, which could be used to retrofit lines currently running in the neighborhood but at a cost of untold millions of dollars at this point.
So that leaves two questions.
First, how much would affected neighbors, or at least groups of neighbors clustered in the most tree-impacted areas, be willing to pay for this new plan? $100 a year? $500 a year? $1,000 a year? All of these numbers are speculative, of course, because there is no firm estimate today.
And second, how much would neighbors who either aren’t impacted or who simply don’t care much whether a tree in their alleys are trimmed lots or just less? $500 a year? $100 a year? Nothing?
The only sure bet: Oncor isn’t going to eat the cost, because as a public utility, it doesn’t have to. Every dollar the utility spends, as long as it’s approved by the state’s Public Utility Commission, will be returned to Oncor along with a 10 percent profit.
Hold onto your wallets…