Beset by criticism for its poor handling of outages from winter storms, Pepco has apparently decided that it can demonstrate “progress” through the overly aggressive, heavy-handed pruning of trees — whether the trees need it or not.
Case in point: Two large, healthy trees in my front yard, both of which had survived Pepco’s trimming in past years just fine. This year, however, these trees were pruned with a vengeance. While some small branches (twigs, really) near wires were cut appropriately, one tree also had a large portion of its main trunk sliced off, despite it being well away from — and below — the wires. It is unlikely that it will ever again provide shade for our home. The second tree was ruthlessly pruned so that much of its midsection, again well away from any wires, has been eviscerated.
An article this week in The Post [“Customers split over Pepco tree pruning in Md., D.C.,” Metro, May 14] reported that Pepco “has devoted unprecedented resources to trimming and removing the kinds of trees that have compromised power lines,” and it’s certainly true that it is essential to cut down any dead or diseased trees and limbs that threaten power lines. But from what was done to my trees, I can only wonder whether, in an apparent effort to show that it was doing something to prevent outages, Pepco has not limited the cutting to trees and branches that endanger power lines.
The pruning has gone far beyond what is necessary, with a major negative impact on the District’s tree canopy. Our trees are a valuable economic and environmental resource for the city. Their shade substantially reduces building energy needs, with a concomitant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions resulting from producing that energy. Trees reduce ultraviolet radiation and contribute to improved water quality. Importantly, they reduce air pollution from ozone-forming chemicals, which are temperature-dependent. And our trees make this an attractive city for tourists to visit. We cannot afford this excessive pruning, with its negative impact on tree health.
And one other thing we should think about: There is an undeniable conflict of interest in Pepco’s handling so much urban tree pruning. The more that trees are unnecessarily pruned, the more that building shade will be substantially reduced and the more energy Pepco will sell to power air conditioners.
In tough fiscal times, the D.C. government’s urban foresters are not likely to have the capacity to properly oversee these tree-cutting operations. But more supervision of some kind is required or we will be in danger of losing a hugely important resource.