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Lexington officials clash with utility over clear-cutting

November 19, 2021 GMT

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Lexington officials concerned about the clear-cutting of trees under power lines want Kentucky Utilities to pause the practice while the city works to get questions answered, but the utility said this week that a pause is unnecessary, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

During a Tuesday Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council work session, KU officials said they are considering some minor changes to the clear-cutting plan, but declined to place a moratorium on the practice.

Diane Atchison, of the Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, said 137 trees will be cut down by the end of the month in that neighborhood. Those trees were originally planted with KU’s approval, she said. In another neighborhood in the Lakeside area, more than 200 trees are scheduled to be axed by utility workers, with residents there concerned the removal will increase problems with stormwater runoff.

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Kyle Burns, KU director of transmission engineering and construction, said an environmental study will begin shortly and no work will be done until that study is completed. KU also is now notifying affected property owners eight weeks prior to when the trees will be cut and working with some neighborhoods on plans to immediately replant trees.

Lexington council members urged KU to reconsider its tree-cutting policy and return to previous practices that included trimming trees. Councilman David Kloiber said the Public Service Commission, which oversees public utilities, has not ordered clear-cutting. KU made that decision because axing is cheaper than trimming, Kloiber said.

“KU has certain interests that are not aligned with the interests of the public,” Kloiber said.

Asked if any tree in Fayette County has knocked out power on a transmission line, Burns said clear-cutting has resulted in a 40% decrease in outages in the system as a whole, although he did not have the number for Fayette. Maintaining the power grid is the utility’s top concern, Burns said.