Com Ed is sending tree cutters to many areas in McHenry County during the next three months.
Com Ed calls it “vegetation management.”
With all the authority cited, one might wonder why State Rep. Jack Franks introduced a bill to give the electric company more power to cut down trees.
Emily Berendt of the Fleming Road Alliance originally alerted me to Franks House Bill 3884. Here is how she summarized it:
It allows the utility company to remove any tree that has a mature height of over 25 feet and is within 20 feet of a utility pole or overhead conductor.
Franks called it the “Overhead Utility Facilities Damage Prevention Act.”
It was such a ridiculous expansion of power that the Chicago Tribune’s lead editorial on Sunday, March 12, 2012, was dedicated to Franks’ “Illinois Chain Saw Massacre” proposal.
Among other comments, the editorial writer said,
The legislation would establish an arbitrary 20-foot buffer, evidently between the electrical pole or cable and any offending tree trunk. That would make thousands of Illinois trees into live bait for the chain saw crews.
…if a homeowner planted a shade-tree sapling within 20 feet of electrical transmission lines, the bill would empower utilities to chop it down, without replacement, on the theory that it might one day blossom into a problem…
All shade trees sold in Illinois expected to grow beyond 25 feet in height would have to carry a label declaring it unlawful to plant such “restricted vegetation” anywhere near a pole or wire.
It seemed to me that Franks deserved the title, “Chainsaw Jack.”
Franks took the “my constituents made me do it” approach when the sawdust started blowing.
Probably unrelated, but interesting, is Franks’ acceptance of $1,000 from Downstate electric utility Ameren. This was reported to the State Board of Elections on Feb. 12, 2012.
Although Franks introduced the bill on November 21, 2011, amendatory language didn’t show up until February 21, 2012, about a week before Franks received a $1,000 contribution from Ameren (Com Ed’s monopoly counterpart in Central and Southern Illinois).