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Landscape Trees (maintained areas)

Prior to 2008, EnergyUnited would agree to top or “round over” trees located directly under or immediately adjacent to our facilities at the member’s request (Figure 1). While this method of pruning provided clearance from EnergyUnited’s power lines and is perceived as more aesthetically pleasing by some, research has shown this method to be more harmful than beneficial for the health of the tree and for maintaining line clearance.

Some of the disadvantages of “Rounding Over”:

  • Increased risk of decay & disease resulting from cuts that do not heal properly
  • Complete removal of the trees food source (foliage)
  • Prolific sprouting may occur, resulting in numerous weakly-attached, rapid growing branches that must be pruned more often to keep clearance from our facilities (Figure 2)
  • Over time, this method will cause decline and likely lead to the death of the tree

As a result of the negative effects of this pruning method, it’s now considered a discredited practice among professionals in the tree care industry.

Figure 1. Tree that has been rounded over/ stub cut.

Figure 2. Fast growing sprouts resulting from round over.

All Illustrations courtesy of International Society of Arboriculture

Figure 3. Tree located adjacent to powerline prior to trimming

Figure 4. Tree after pruning & clean up

Figure 5. Tree located directly below the line assuming a V-shape


EnergyUnited currently adheres to the ANSI Z133 and A300 Standards for Tree Care when pruning landscape trees along its distribution and transmission right-of ways. These standards promote directional or lateral trimming of branches to direct current and new growth away from the electric facility. This will often leave the tree with a V-shape if located directly under the conductors (Figure 5), or an L-shape if located to either side of the conductors (Figure 4).

Some of the advantages of directional (lateral) pruning:

  • Pruning to a point that takes advantage of a trees natural ability to close a wound
  • Lessens the frequency of pruning required on any single tree
  • Over time, re-directs the trees new growth away from the electrical facility
  • Removes less of the tree’s food source (foliage) in one pruning
  • Less likely to cause a decline in the overall health of tree

The species of the tree being pruned and its orientation to the electrical facility ultimately determines the shape of the tree after pruning. Also, it’s important to note that trees that have been severely topped in the past and certain species of trees that are decurrent by nature (having many branches originating close to ground level), are often better candidates for complete removal, rather than pruning.


For sections of distribution and transmission lines that traverse long section of wooded or unmaintained areas, the previously described pruning methods are impractical in most cases due to difficult terrain, density of vegetation along the right-of-way corridor, and access issues.

Therefore, mechanical means such as boom-tip trimmers, forestry mowers, and sometimes rotor blade aircraft are implemented along with conventional methods such as hand cutting, and climbing in order to maintain line clearance in a safe and cost-efficient manner. (Figures 6 & 7)

Utilizing this method of maintenance, cuts are made outside of the branch collar, but as close to the trunk as possible while attempting to avoid any damage to the trunk. Even though this method is a departure from the directional pruning method used in landscape areas, it is still in line with ANSI 300 guidelines for pruning operations in Remote/Rural Environments.)

For additional information and resources concerning best practices for utility right-of-way management visit or

Figure 6. Mechanical trimmer working x-country line section

Figure 7. Forestry mower working in un-maintained floor

Want to learn more about our Vegetation Management program?



What right does EnergyUnited have to maintain their right of way, and can anyone else use it?

EnergyUnited is obligated to maintain our facilities to ensure a safe, reliable, and cost-efficient supply of electricity to our members, while also adhering to the rules and regulations that govern the utility industry, such as the National Electric Safety Code (NESC) and the North Carolina High Voltage Safety Act N.C.G.S. # 95-229.5.

Also, members of EnergyUnited have agreed to our Electric Service Rules & Regulations in order to receive electric service. Section 203 of these regulations describes in detail the members’ and EnergyUnited’s responsibilities concerning right-of-way maintenance.

Unless there is a public easement in place, our Right of Way does not grant access to a property for anyone other than EnergyUnited.


What tree debris will be cleaned up?

a. Scheduled Maintenance:

i. What we take away:

  • After a tree is pruned in a landscaped area such as yards or pastures, all small limbs & branches smaller than 8-inches in diameter will be chipped and taken away.

ii. What we leave behind:

  • Debris that cannot be hauled away (anything larger than 8-inches in diameter) are cut into manageable pieces & stacked at the edge of the ROW or beside the stump for the property owner’s use or disposal.
  • Debris in unmaintained areas will be ground up using a mower, and large pieces will be left to naturally decompose.

b. Maintenance requested by customer:

i. What we take away:

  • After a tree is pruned in a landscaped area such as yards or pastures, all small limbs and branches smaller than 8-inches in diameter will be chipped and taken away.

ii. What we leave behind:

  • Debris that cannot be hauled away (anything larger than 8-inches in diameter) are cut into manageable pieces & stacked at the edge of the ROW or beside the stump for the property owner’s use or disposal.

c. Dead trees:

i. EnergyUnited nor its contractors haul off any dead trees that have been cut down or have fallen.

d. Stumps:

i. EnergyUnited does not grind stumps of trees that have been taken down. EnergyUnited contractors will cut all stumps 2-inches or lower to the ground, unless there is metal or a foreign substance that has grown into the tree that will prevent the stump from being cut.


Who owns the land under the power line?

EnergyUnited does not own the land underneath the power line on your property. However, a utility easement allows us the right of ingress, egress, and regress in order to perform certain functions necessary to maintain our system. This includes, but is not limited to, the controlling of trees and undergrowth that EnergyUnited feels may interfere with or hinder the installation and/or restoration of electric/communication service.


What determines the width that you cut?

The width that the right-of-way is maintained at depends on many factors such as, but not limited to, tree species, growth rate, length of re-clear cycle, single or multi-phase line, and conductor sag. On average, we allow for about 2.1’ of growth per year, placing us at an average of seven years between re-clearing operations. This equates to clearing 20’ either side of the centerline on multi-phase construction and 15’ either side of centerline on single phase construction. The exception to this rule is large, rapid-growing species planted close or directly under our primary facilities causing EnergyUnited to perform mid-cycle trimming to ensure safe reliable service.


How often do you cut rights-of-way?

Currently, EnergyUnited maintains a seven year cycle on Distribution lines (residential) and a 12-15-year cycle on Transmission lines. We also perform reactive or service order-generated tree trimming on a limited, as-needed basis.


Will I be notified prior to right-of-way maintenance?

EnergyUnited and its contractor will make an effort to notify every member impacted by rightof-way maintenance (with a door hanger notification) a minimum of 2-3 working days prior to maintenance. However, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, maintenance will have to proceed whether or not we have been able to make contact.


I have received a door hanger at my residence. What do I do with it?

The door hanger you received is one of the most important parts of our maintenance program. On this pamphlet you will find the contact number for the General Foreman of the crew that will be performing maintenance in your area, as well as a brief description of the work to be performed. You will need to use this information to contact our contractor if you wish to schedule a time to discuss maintenance on your property prior to its completion.


Who is responsible for the overhead service drop coming from the transformer to my house?

EnergyUnited is not responsible for trimming or removal of any trees located within the member’s service drop line. We will, however, lower the lines to allow the safe removal/trimming of the tree if notified 2-3 business days in advance. If other facilities, such as phone or cable lines are an obstacle, then it will be the member’s responsibility to contact these providers in order to have them lowered.


Will EnergyUnited trim around my security light or the power lines near homes, not just the roads?

EnergyUnited does not routinely trim around security lights. However, given 2-3 days’ notice, we can have a security light service disconnected and/or lowered so that members can trim, or have a private tree contractor trim around the light.

Primary lines are uncovered wire at higher voltages while lines running overhead and connecting directly to your home are primarily coated secondary lines (triplex wire). The voltage in these lines has been reduced by a transformer to the same voltage you will use inside your residence. Light contact by small limbs will generally have no effect on these lines. Also, technically, there is no easement or right of way for secondary lines, as you either wish to have service or you do not. EnergyUnited has no specific maintenance plan in place for these lines, but will perform vegetation maintenance along these lines if a load-bearing situation is present or there is determined to be some other extenuating circumstance that warrants our involvement. If a member wishes to have tree work performed along these lines that EnergyUnited determines is outside of our scope of work, they can schedule to have the service disconnected and lowered while the work is completed, and then re-installed at no charge during normal working hours. Please give us at least a 2-3 day notice if you wish to have this done.


Who gets the mulch/chips left from the trimming?

As our crews perform right-of-way maintenance in your area, you may request wood chips (using the appropriate contact info on your door hangar). It will be the Member’s responsibility to communicate with our contractor and mark the location that you want the chips dumped. It’s important to remember that these chips are from many different species of tree and that they are only delivered in full loads, roughly equivalent to 3-4 long bed pick-up truck loads. Once you have taken delivery of the chips, EnergyUnited or our contractor has no way of removing them from your property.


Why will EnergyUnited or its contractor not round over or top my tree?

While a common practice in the past, rounding over is now considered a discredited practice in the tree care industry. It’s performed by making a series of heading cuts between laterals in order to give the tree a more symmetrical appearance. The result, though, is a weakened tree more susceptible to infection and decay. This practice also encourages prolific sprouting in some species that requires multiple trimmings mid-cycle.


Will EnergyUnited clean up debris related to a storm event?

During a severe weather event crews will only remove storm-damaged trees and debris from EnergyUnited facilities in order to aid in the restoration process. Clean up of residual debris will be the responsibility of the property owner.


Can I trim my own trees or hire a private contractor to trim the trees near the power lines?

If you are not a qualified line clearance arborist or have not hired one, it is recommended that you do not attempt to trim any tree that is within 10’ of a high voltage distribution or transmission line (Article 19A Overhead High-Voltage Safety Act NC General Statute 95-229.5). These lines are capable of causing severe injury or death through direct or indirect contact. If you’re planning to prune or remove a tree that is within 10’ of a high voltage facility, you can contact EnergyUnited to assist with evaluating your situation.


What types of trees/shrubs can be planted adjacent to underground distribution equipment, and are there trees and plants that can help with energy saving?

Compact, low-growing vegetation can be planted around underground equipment. Please be sure to follow the guidelines that are attached to the equipment itself, which specify distances and clearances with detailed illustrations. If the labels specifying clearances for vegetation are missing from the equipment in question, please contact EnergyUnited for assistance. Do not plant vegetation in a manner that completely obscures the facility from view or prevents the servicing or operation of the equipment.

For energy saving, members can plant deciduous plants on both sides of the home along the path of the sun to block radiant energy from the sun. Incorporate large and small species in order to block both morning and midday sun. For winter, plant a break perpendicular to the prevailing wind utilizing a species that is evergreen and has a crown extending to the ground. It is said the greatest benefit in wind reduction occurs 2-5 times the height of the trees downwind from the break. So, if your trees will reach 40' in height they need to be planted 80-200' from your home. Remember to avoid planting trees under or next to power lines. Any trees that can provide energy savings will be much too large to coexist close to overhead power lines.


How often do you apply herbicides along your right-of ways?

Distribution lines

Generally, herbicides are applied one to one-and-a-half growing seasons after a full cut cycle, on residential distribution lines. After that, herbicides may be applied to the same area once more, depending on the density of the brush along that particular section of line. Distribution lines, on average, will be selectively treated twice per trim cycle.

Transmission lines

Just like residential distribution lines, transmission lines will be treated one to one-and-a-half growing seasons after a full cut cycle. Following this, they may receive 3-to-5 more treatments, over the course of the next 10-15 years, before being re-trimmed and mowed. This is due to the fact that the mechanical re-clearing maintenance cycle is much longer than that of a distribution line, due to the greater width of our transmission line corridors.


What herbicides do you use to control brush along your right-of ways?

Please refer to the LVH (low volume herbicide) section above, where you will find listed the herbicides we use and a link to their label and SDS (Safety Data Sheet).

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