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Lexington council moving toward legal action over KU's tree-cutting program

Stu Johnson
Lexington Council Chambers

Lexington’s city council is considering taking Kentucky Utilities to court over its tree removal program. A KU representative says clear-cutting is the appropriate measure in certain circumstances.

The Council resolution, brought forth after a closed session discussion, requests court action on an injunction to place a pause on clear-cutting. Council is also filing a letter of complaint with the State Public Service Commission. Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton.

“In this case, our public, and council members, and myself are pretty outraged about the clear-cutting of trees,” said Gorton.

Gorton said these steps are, quote, “two last efforts that we can make.” She hopes KU will reconsider its vegetation removal policy. The mayor said similar tree removals could occur in several areas of Lexington over the next couple of years. Calling mature trees part of the natural infrastructure, Gorton said they provide shade, impact air quality, and the roots take up stormwater.

KU Spokesman Daniel Lowery said the company’s goal is to provide safe reliable energy at the lowest possible cost while also balancing a variety of requirements and standards. Lowery noted a 15-foot tree has the potential to grow ten additional feet, which can impact a 40-foot transmission line. “And then you say, it’s at 25 feet, it’s still not going to touch their line. The line is 40 feet, but there are regulations that say workers have to be a safe distance, in some cases, 15 feet from the line,” said Lowery.

Lowery said electrical wires are dynamic and weather conditions can impact trees and power lines. The KU rep added the utility plants as many trees if not more than what it removes. Council action on the resolution is expected this Thursday.

Lowery said Kentucky Utilities replants new trees when trees are removed. Council action on the resolution is expected this Thursday.

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