“You feel like your insides are crumbling when you look at what they did,” Marcis said. “You have no control, you can’t do anything, short of throwing yourself in front of one of their trucks to stop them, which I considered.”
Like so many other people in the area, Rock Creek Woods residents were already furious with Pepco for the multiple days they endured without power during a relentless heat wave a few weeks ago. Now neighbors here are angry over Pepco’s strategy to prevent future outages: the slicing and dicing of much-beloved Yoshino cherry trees.
The outrage in Rock Creek Woods, just north of Kensington,
and elsewhere in Maryland signifies the conundrum faced by Pepco: People get mad when trees fall on power lines and cause long outages. But residents also fume when they feel Pepco prunes too aggressively and spoils their neighborhood’s aesthetic charms.
“Pepco’s not doing their job of delivering power, but this is not going to solve our problems either,” said Rock Creek Woods resident Sue Holbeck, a cancer researcher at the National Institutes of Health who called the tree trimming “a PR effort.”
Bob Hainey, a Pepco spokesman, said Asplundh crews hired to prune trees across the region follow state guidelines. “We only cut what the state tells us to do and what’s in the best interest of the trees,” Hainey said.
On Thursday, the Montgomery County Council examined Pepco’s effectiveness after a powerful thunderstorm known as a derecho swept through the Washington area on June 29, leaving more than 1 million people without power. Montgomery County was the hardest hit in the region. Nearly 60 critical county facilities, such as senior centers, lost their power for days; at the worst point, the county had about 238,000 outages.
At the hearing, Pepco officials blamed trees for much of the damage to about 2,400 Pepco power lines, 200 transformers and 240 utility poles that fell during the storm.
David M. Velazquez, Pepco Holding’s executive vice president for asset management, praised the “significant additional tree-trimming resources to clear the trees that are usually the cause of poles and wires falling down.”
But tree trimming is often as sore a subject in Montgomery as the outages.
Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) is so alarmed about aggressive tree pruning that he recently proposed a bill that would require utilities to make a “reasonable attempt” to notify property owners of tree trimming and to provide them with a “customer bill of rights.” Berliner’s bill would also generally prohibit trimming trees along rural roads or in county-marked historic areas.