Legislative Memo

Heather Briccetti
Vice President of Government Affairs
T 518.465.7517 x203


A.1987 (Parment) / S.3295 (Thompson)



Utility Herbicides Prohibition



February 23, 2009

The Business Council of New York State opposes this bill which would prohibit the use of herbicides, defoliants, desiccants and plant regulators on any utility right of way of any telephone, telegraph, pipeline, gas, or electric corporation.

The maintenance of right-of –ways by utility companies is regulated by the Department of Public Service, which has permitted the use of herbicides as a means of controlling the growth of vegetation adjacent to gas and electric transmission lines and facilities. 

The prohibition of the use of such herbicides would necessarily result in the utilities use of alternative means of clearing vegetation that would be more dangerous to employees, less cost effective and potentially more environmentally harmful.   Mechanical cutting would necessitate the use of gas powered equipment such as chippers, chainsaws, and other heavy machinery that poses a far greater risk to the physical safety of the workers in addition to the environmental impact of emissions and potential fuel spills.  Further, the utilities estimate that the costs of clearing property mechanically would be thousands of dollars per acre, as compared to the hundreds of dollars per acre for herbicides. 

It is unsound public policy to impose a more dangerous and more costly mandate on utility companies at a time of skyrocketing energy costs without proven scientific evidence demonstrating a compelling need for such a directive.

For the foregoing reasons, The Business Council of New York State opposes this legislation and urges that it not be enacted.