An overwhelming number of complaints about long power outages during a February ice storm have prompted state officials to host hearings across Pennsylvania, hoping to glean answers and inspire better practices to keep residents out of the dark.
More than 62,000 York County residents lost power after a February ice storm knocked down trees and utility lines, leaving some local customers without electricity for a week.
The House Consumer Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday at 60 East Wing - Capitol Building in Harrisburg, where lawmakers will hear testimony from Met-Ed, PPL and PECO.
"These hearings might not prevent all the outages, but we might be able to tone them down," said state Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery County, chairman of the committee.
Questions will focus on storm preparation, response to power outages caused by winter's snow and ice, and tree-management policies and practices, he said.
Concerned residents who are unable to attend the hearing can watch a live feed online at www.pahousegop.com.
Tree trimming: Godshall will place emphasis on tree management, he said.
"Complaints are similar across the state about the trees. Even the utilities are blaming a large amount of outages on trees falling on wires," Godshall said.
Utility providers need to do more vegetation control so there are fewer trees around wires, he said.
"But there are people, whose tree is on the line, who don't want their trees cut down. They don't want them trimmed or the tops cut off. Not only do they lose their electric in a storm, but all their neighbors do, too," Godshall said.
Another reason he's sure of the need for more vegetation control is complaints are coming in each year from the same tree-filled areas.
"There's no question this has to do with tree trimming," Godshall said.
PUC hearings: The Public Utility Commission is also hosting hearings, giving state residents a chance to vent about lengthy outages.
A hearing was held Monday evening in Montgomery County, another will be held 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night at the Tredyffrin Township Building in Chester County, and yet another will be held 7 p.m. Monday, April 7, at the Penn Township Municipal Building in Chester County.
Chester and Montgomery counties were the two hardest hit areas in the state, said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.
At the height of the February ice storm, more than 90,000 were without power in Chester County and more than 83,000 in Montgomery County.
Bucks County had about 61,000 outages, and Delaware County had about 30,000 outages.
How do York's 62,000 outages compare to the rest of the state?
"There's no doubt about it. York County was one of the hardest-hit areas," Kocher said.
If York residents would like their voices heard during any of they hearings, they are advised to write to either their state representative, Godshall's office at 150 Main Capitol, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2053 or the PUC at P.O. Box 3265, Harrisburg, PA 17105-3265.
—Reach Candy Woodall at firstname.lastname@example.org.