43 U.S.C. § 1772 - Vegetation managment, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance relating to electric transmission and distribution facility rights of way

Cite as:43 U.S.C. § 1772
Currency:Current through P.L. 116-135 (03/26/2020)
 
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(a) Definitions

In this section:

(1) Hazard tree

The term "hazard tree" means any tree or part thereof (whether located inside or outside a right-of-way) that has been designated, prior to tree failure, by a certified or licensed arborist or forester under the supervision of the Secretary concerned or the owner or operator of a transmission or distribution facility to be-

(A) dead, likely to die within the routine vegetation management cycle, or likely to fail within the routine vegetation management cycle; and

(B) if the tree or part of the tree failed, likely to-

(i) cause substantial damage or disruption to a transmission or distribution facility; or

(ii) come within 10 feet of an electric power line.

(2) Owner; operator

The terms "owner" and "operator" include contractors or other agents engaged by the owner or operator of an electric transmission or distribution facility.

(3) Plan

The term "plan" means a vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance plan that-

(A) is prepared by the owner or operator of 1 or more electric transmission or distribution facilities to cover 1 or more electric transmission and distribution rights-of-way; and

(B) provides for the long-term, cost-effective, efficient, and timely management of facilities and vegetation within the width of the right-of-way and abutting Federal land, including hazard trees, to enhance electric reliability, promote public safety, and avoid fire hazards.

(4) Secretary concerned

The term "Secretary concerned" means-

(A) the Secretary, with respect to public lands; and

(B) the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System land.

(b) Guidance

(1) In general

To enhance the reliability of the electric grid and reduce the threat of wildfire damage to, and wildfire caused by vegetation-related conditions within, electric transmission and distribution rights-of-way and abutting Federal land, including hazard trees, the Secretary concerned shall issue and periodically update guidance to ensure that provisions are appropriately developed and implemented for utility vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance of rights-of-way, regardless of the means by which the rights-of-way are established (including by grant, special use authorization, and easement).

(2) Limitation

The guidance issued under paragraph (1) shall be compatible with mandatory reliability standards established by the Electric Reliability Organization.

(3) Considerations

The guidance issued under paragraph (1) shall take into account-

(A) all applicable law, including fire safety and electric system reliability requirements (including reliability standards established by the Electric Reliability Organization under section 824o of title 16); and

(B) the Memorandum of Understanding on Vegetation Management for Powerline Rights-of-Way between the Edison Electric Institute, Utility Arborist Association, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency signed in 2016.

(4) Requirements

The guidance issued under paragraph (1) shall-

(A) be developed in consultation with the owners of transmission and distribution facilities that hold rights-of-way;

(B) seek to minimize the need for case-by-case approvals for-

(i) routine vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance activities; and

(ii) utility vegetation management activities that are necessary to control hazard trees; and

(C) provide for prompt and timely review of requests to conduct vegetation management activities that require approval of the Secretary concerned, especially activities requiring expedited or immediate action.

(c) Vegetation management, facility inspection, and operation and maintenance plans

(1) Development and submission

Consistent with subsection (b), the Secretary concerned shall provide owners and operators of electric transmission or distribution facilities located on public lands and National Forest System land, as applicable, with the option to develop and submit a plan.

(2) ERO standards

Owners and operators subject to mandatory reliability standards established by the Electric Reliability Organization (or superseding standards) may use those standards as part of the plan.

(3) Plan requirements

A plan developed under paragraph (1) shall-

(A) identify the applicable transmission or distribution facilities to be maintained;

(B) take into account operations and maintenance plans for the applicable transmission or distribution line;

(C) describe the vegetation management, inspection, and operation and maintenance methods that may be used to comply with all applicable law, including fire safety requirements and reliability standards established by the Electric Reliability Organization;

(D) include schedules for-

(i) the applicable owner or operator to notify the Secretary concerned about routine and major maintenance;

(ii) the applicable owner or operator to request approval from the Secretary concerned about undertaking routine and major maintenance; and

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