The Vegetation Management Response Act (s2505/A2558) would cede authority over public and private trees to any public utility or cable television company, not just to electric utilities as at present. It is scheduled for a final vote in the Senate on January 31.
The bill is opposed by the Sierra Club, the NJ Shade tree Federation and the League of Municipalities, and Mayor Lempert and the Princeton Shade Tree Commission have written a joint letter opposing it. The bill would exempt the utilities from needing to comply with local laws or taking local vegetation management priorities and concerns into account. While notice must be given before trees are removed, there is no penalty for failure to give notice and no real leverage to object. Appropriate programs of vegetation management are necessary, but the process should include compliance with professional standards of tree care, cooperative planning and regular communication. Trees are extremely important for removing carbon from the atmosphere, helping to curtail flooding, providing wildlife habitat and protecting groundwater supply.
If you are concerned, please contact your state senator. For Princeton, that will be Kip Bateman. You can call Senator Bateman’s office at 908/526-3600, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.