January 10, 2013The problem with Duke Energy sending crews into neighborhoods to cut down trees without the permission of the property owners is going to come up at the Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
I have had my own run-ins with Duke Energy about trees in the past and have what is a partial solution.
We live in a society of laws. We have laws that tell you how fast you can drive your car, when to cross the street, when and where to send your children to school, where you can smoke and even when and where you can pray out loud.
But there is an entity in our society that appears not subject to law, and that is Duke Energy. Duke Energy can send people on your property to cut down your trees and apparently there is nothing that can be done to stop them.
Why can't the City Council govern people cutting trees for Duke Energy with laws like it does the rest of us?
Just last summer I heard chainsaws behind my house and when I walked into my backyard to investigate I found about 10 men, several of them high up in trees on my property, cutting away. No one had notified me that Duke Energy was sending a crew on to my property to cut trees. It is incredible that Duke Energy has that legal right to come on someone's property and cut down trees without notification much less permission.
But like many homeowners who love trees, that is just the latest in a series of incidents involving Duke Energy sending crews on to my property to cut trees that I thought I owned.
Over 10 years ago, Duke Energy decided to send crews to cut down dozens of trees in city parks. Like the singing tree in Westerwood, which they recently cut down, the tree crews decided to cut down an ancient cedar tree in Latham Park that was near their lines but was not, according to one authority, in the Duke right-of-way. But they cut it down anyway. It was old and no doubt had some disease, but it was not in any way a danger to the electrical lines, since even young trees can't jump.
At that time Duke cut down a bunch of trees in the Greensboro Arboretum. Some were ornamental trees that could only interfere with Duke energy lines if they were pulled up by a huge crane, lifted over the lines and dropped.
The city attorney at that time claimed there was nothing the city could do to stop Duke Energy from cutting down trees on city property.
Duke Energy has sent crews on my property three times to cut trees that were not in the right-of-way without even notifying me. I have contacted attorneys to find out if I could sue for damages, get a restraining order to keep them off my property or something else, and I was told I had no legal recourse.
I did win a partial victory about 10 years ago when Duke Energy sent a crew on my property that cut down three dogwoods that were not in the right-of-way and, in these old dogwoods' wildest dreams they could have never have soared so high as to interfere with the power lines. I complained enough that Duke Energy paid me $100 for those trees. Their tree expert who came out to analyze the damage also diagnosed a tree near my house as being diseased and needing to come down. It is still strong and healthy today.
A lot of problems come before the Greensboro City Council that the council can't do anything about, but tree cutting is not one of them. It seems a simple ordinance would protect the property owners' rights and make crews sent by Duke Energy less brazen.
Why can't the City Council pass an ordinance making it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 to cut down a tree on someone else's property without the consent of the owner.
If, in fact, Duke Energy has the right to cut down any tree anywhere in Greensboro that it says does or could at some time in the future pose a threat to the electrical lines, then maybe Duke Energy should be paying property tax on all of that property because it appears Duke Energy has more say-so than the property owners.